Westville divided on handling of beggars
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.