Westville di­vided on han­dling of beg­gars

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - KARINDA JAGMOHAN karinda.jagmohan@inl.co.za

THE res­i­dents of Westville are di­vided on how beg­gars have been han­dled in the area.

While an op­er­a­tion to rid the sub­urb of “nui­sance” beg­gars was ap­plauded by some, it has also been de­scribed as un­con­sti­tu­tional and likened to the apartheid dom­pas.

On Fri­day, the Westville com­mu­nity polic­ing fo­rum an­nounced on its Face­book page that Op­er­a­tion Take Back would be put into ef­fect.

The op­er­a­tion in­cluded a process to reg­is­ter beg­gars’ fin­ger­prints on a data­base and pre­vent them from beg­ging again in Westville.

The post read: “If you are a beg­gar in Westville, you will now be iden­ti­fied, fin­ger­printed and put in a reg­is­ter which you will sign as ac­knowl­edge­ment that if you are caught beg­ging in the area again you will be ar­rested. All fin­ger­prints taken will be sent to the nec­es­sary de­part­ment and checked to see if they match any fin­ger­prints taken from crime scenes or there are out­stand­ing war­rants for the said per­son.”

The post ini­tially re­ceived dozens of pos­i­tive re­ac­tions, but was re­moved yes­ter­day fol­low­ing a slew of crit­i­cism about the op­er­a­tion’s le­gal­ity.

Westville CPF chair­per­son Alex Gloster said the op­er­a­tion had been tabled by the SAPS sta­tion com­man­der and would be han­dled by SAPS.

“This was the cul­mi­na­tion of a num­ber of fac­tors in­clud­ing va­grancy which has been as­so­ci­ated to con­tact crimes,” he said.

The Pine­town precinct, un­der which Westville falls, was among the top 10 precincts with the high­est num­ber of crimes re­ported in 2017/2018, ac­cord­ing to stats pro­vided by the po­lice.

Gloster said that the op­er­a­tion re­lated to ethek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity by-laws on nui­sance be­hav­iour which in­di­cated that beg­ging was il­le­gal.

“This is not the CPF mak­ing the law, or ap­ply­ing the law and be­com­ing a po­lice force on our own. We are li­ais­ing with SAPS and are con­fi­dent ev­ery­thing is above board. I see no rea­son to sus­pect that the op­er­a­tion will not hap­pen. We are pro­tect­ing every­one, in­clud­ing the in­di­gent, such as car guards, who make a mea­gre in­come,” he said.

The post re­minded Westville res­i­dent Kiru Naidoo of apartheid, when free­dom of move­ment was re­stricted.

Naidoo has laid a com­plaint with the South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, and at­tempted to lay charges against the CPF and SAPS for vi­o­lat­ing hu­man rights.

“I was not able to open such a charge at the Westville SAPS and was given an Oc­cur­rence Book (OB) num­ber in­stead,” he said.

SAPS pro­vin­cial spokesper­son, Colonel Them­beka Mb­hele con­firmed that the project had been ini­ti­ated by SAPS to pre­vent crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“But we can­not di­vulge fur­ther in­for­ma­tion,” she said.

How­ever, na­tional po­lice spokesper­son Bri­gadier Vishnu Naidoo, de­scribed the op­er­a­tion as un­con­sti­tu­tional. “I have seen the so­cial me­dia post­ings about beg­gars be­ing tagged in a com­mu­nity out­side Dur­ban. I must say that it is not some­thing that we would en­cour­age, it is clearly un­con­sti­tu­tional,” he said.

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