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City of Cape Town gives up on law-enforcement of homeless
Executive Director for Safety and Security, Richard Bosman claimed these "small groups are likely to be at no greater risk of contracting the virus at their current locations, as they are not in direct contact with others".
... writes Tred Magill Friday, April 24, 2020

While most Capetonians are under lockdown, the City of Cape Town appears to have given up enforcement of by-laws upon many homeless people, with the bizarre claim they were at no greater risk of contracting Covid-19.

Business as usual, along the railway line between Woodstock and Salt River
Photo: Tred Magill
The City was asked for comment about specific groups of homeless living in makeshift shelters, on the side of the railway line between Woodstock and Salt River stations, under the N2 flyover in Chapel street and homeless refugees living in Hanover Street, opposite Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

At each of these locations, homeless people move around and socialise as usual, without face-masks, hand sanitiser or observing social distancing recommendations. In many instances, these people are also approaching people for hand-outs.At the intersection of Hanover and Tenant Street a young woman was seen approaching motorists to sell stickers, while on the other side of the road a traffic patrol car drove past. Just 200 metres away a SAPS patrol van was seen pulling up to a group of about six homeless people sitting in a group ... and then driving away. And in Chapel street a number of homeless move around between makeshift shelters, in full view of a law-enforcement authorities manning a road-block into the city centre, less than 100m away.

Makeshift shelters in Chapel Street, under the N2 flyover, in full view of traffic officials in the background.
Photo: Tred Magill
Responding to these observations, the City's Executive Director for Safety and Security, Richard Bosman claimed these "small groups are likely to be at no greater risk of contracting the virus at their current locations, as they are not in direct contact with others". He did not comment on the risk the homeless might pose to those they approach for hand-outs.

Bosman said the City's Law Enforcement had liaised with groups of street people during the lockdown and those that had agreed had been moved to temporary shelter facilities, while others had declined to be moved. He stressed the difficulty with enforcement saying that "where the City conducts operations in line with the by-laws, the individuals simply return to the sites as soon as officers leave".

"Given the many demands on the City's Law Enforcement Department during this unprecedented health crisis, a legal view was presented indicating that these small groups are likely to be at no greater risk of contracting the virus at their current locations, as they are not in direct contact with others", he said.

Last month Bosman confirmed the City would continue to enforce by-laws, after fines were issued to a group of refugees the city moved from the city centre to Albertus Street.1 This followed a controversial High Court ruling, in which Judge Martin effectively put a moratorium on fines against homeless people.

A homeless woman selling stickers in Hanover Street
Photo: Tred Magill

The City has been harshly criticised for enforcing by-laws on homeless people during the lockdown. Last month, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi lashed out at the City for failing to enforce bylaws to deal with the refugee crisis, claiming the City was "hiding behind Home Affairs".

Good Party secretary-general and former DA City Councillor, Brett Herron was last week reported to have said; "The Strandfontein camp has been a chaotic and shambolic attempt at shelter and now it seems that the City has completely lost its mind by issuing fines to the penniless homeless people. A picture is emerging of a government that is completely out of control".

"Taking 2,000 people off the street and forcing them to camp in Strandfontein was poor judgment. A proper plan would have anticipated the human dynamics of what was going to happen and would have prepared for this, with professionals available to intervene and to assist human beings to adjust to being effectively imprisoned.

"Speaking again yesterday, Herron accused the City again, of using the pandemic to 'clean-up' the city and of rejecting offers from organisations which provide support for the homeless:"The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown regulations are not an opportunity to round up all the homeless people and dump them in a damp, cold camp on a sports-field. What happens to the homeless people, currently housed in the camp, once the lockdown is lifted? Are they simply released back onto the streets? Are the gates just opened and they wander off? Are they returned to where they were picked up? The City leadership needs a more sustainable approach to homelessness - an approach that provides a phased programme of support that leads to reintegration" he said. - (329)

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