CITY ‘INCITES HATRED OF HOMELESS’
THE City has once again come under fire for the alleged victimisation of homeless people, following its latest call for the public to fill out complaint forms against people living on the street.
This as the City has again been dragged to court for its treatment of the homeless, this time by 11 people represented by Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) in two court cases challenging the constitutionality of City by-laws, charging that they unfairly discriminate against people living on the street.
In an email understood to be from the office of mayco member for safety and security JP Smith, all ward councillors were asked to distribute the “Street people Complaints” form to any individuals and businesses to share their complaints.
“Please see attached, Street People Complaints format for your distribution to any residents or businesses in your ward who wish to share their complaints about the impact of street people and their structures on themselves or their business, with the City’s legal team.
Please note the deadline is June 2,” the email reads.
Smith said an official had incorrectly placed his email address at the bottom of the form, and they had since corrected it.
“I’m not interested in accusations. NU has gone to court to seek to declare sections of the City’s by-laws unconstitutional, those same sections of the City by-laws exist in all the municipalities around South Africa.
“In fact, the by-laws are somewhat more liberal (than other municipalities). The Legal Services department is now collecting data, or statements from the public, to indicate how transgressions of those by-laws impact them.”
NU launched applications in both the Western Cape High Court and the Equality Court challenging the constitutionality and discriminatory impact of two of the City’s municipal by-laws: the by-law relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances (2007) and the Integrated Waste Management by-law (2009).
The organisation said these by-laws criminalise homelessness by making it a crime for persons living on the street to conduct ordinary life-sustaining activities, like sleeping, camping, resting, bathing, erecting a shelter or keeping personal belongings in public.
The City’s failure to address a major affordable housing shortage and an inadequate supply of shelter beds means that homelessness, for many, is not a choice, said NU.
Ward 54 includes the areas of Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay. Its councillor, Nicola Jowell, posted on social media that the
City invited residents to add their voice to the new legal fight through filling out the form.
“This relates specifically to structures that are being placed in public spaces. As part of this process, the City is inviting residents to add their voice to the legal arguments that will be made,” she posted.
Jowell would not answer questions about the form when approached for comment yesterday.
NU said that in response to a legal challenge brought by homeless people, the City has prioritised the opinions of businesses and members of the public who do have homes to solicit complaints about the lived realities of homeless people in a way that fuels the deep-seated stigma against those living on the streets and drum up animosity and “othering” between those who have and those who do not.
Attorney Daniellé Louw said that they were deeply concerned about the City’s efforts to solicit complaints from members of the public against homeless people. “This is tantamount to the City inciting hatred against homeless people, who are one of the most vulnerable population groups in our society. The City’s action, while coming as a shock, is not wholly surprising, given that it is this very approach – one which assumes that all homeless people are lawbreakers – which permeates the City’s response to homelessness.
“Criminalisation is not a sustainable solution towards addressing homelessness. It is deeply concerning that ... the City does not reach out to homeless people to find out what it is that they need in order to address their situation, but rather reaches out to housed members of the public in a way that fosters hatred and animosity between members of the public and those experiencing homelessness,” said Louw.
Khululekile Banzi, a resident from Singabalapha, a community occupying a section of the Main Road in Observatory, said: “A homeless person is a person who can’t afford accommodation, so how can they afford to pay these fines?”