Back in July News24 reported that homeless people were being fined for living on the street, or – more specifically – for “obstructing pedestrian traffic on sidewalks”.
The City of Cape Town claimed that the fines came as a result of a by-law that prohibits people from erecting shelters in public places.
Late in July, we were sent pics of police harassing the homeless in the Cape Town City Centre.
People, like Michael “Jitsem” Jackson, who is 65-years-old, were fined between R200 and R800 for sleeping on Adderley Street.
Following public outcry, IOL reported that a meeting was held with the Community Chest – a philanthropic organisation whose aim is to help alleviate poverty – and key stakeholders including the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and various NGOs, chief executives of homeless shelters, and other figureheads fighting the cause of the homeless to try to find solutions.
Also in attendance at that meeting was commercial lawyer Lucien Lewin, who usually acts on behalf of corporates and individuals in a variety of industries, but who decided to represent the seven homeless people – Carin Theresa Rhoode Gelderbloem, Emily Smith, Vuyo Imbozi, Beulah Meyer, Natasha Persent, Xolani Siboxo and Patricia Geyser – who all wanted to take the City of Cape Town to court.
In court, an interim interdict was granted against the City of Cape Town and the other respondents, which prohibited them from fining the homeless, confiscating their goods, or harassing them in any way.
It has come to light that the City has allegedly violated this interdict by continuing to harass the homeless. As a result, an application has been instituted to hold certain respondents in contempt of the court order.
The respondents being accused of contempt include The City of Cape Town, Dan Plato, JP Smith and Richard Bosman.
The applicants are asking the court to take the following actions, among others, against the respondents:
Also included in the contempt of court application are details of the ways in which the respondents violated the court order. One applicant, Carin Theresa Rhoode Gelderbloem, relayed the following:
I was elated to hear this news [the interim interdict], as many of my possessions had been confiscated by the City prior to the granting of the Order. Indeed, I had recently received a brand-new sleeping bag which was forcefully taken from me by the City’s law enforcement officials (The City Officials). I therefore thought that I had nothing to fear going forward, as I believed that the City would not violate the Order. Unfortunately I was very wrong.
On Tuesday, 10 September 2019 (at about 7pm) and in De Waal Park in the City Bowl (where I was staying at the time) I was approached by members of the Green Point and Oranjekloof City Improvement District (GP/OK CID), who were accompanied by a City Official – presumably, the GP/OK CID members were acting under the authority of the City, hence the presence of the City Official.
She goes on to say how, without warning, the cardboard that she had been sleeping on was confiscated. The cardboard was all that she had left because her sleeping bag had been confiscated the previous week. They also confiscated two bags of clothing that had been given to her.
This, apart from being cruel, a violation of human dignity and nothing short of theft, is in direct contravention of the order.
There are more heartbreaking incidents outlined in the application, most of them relaying violations and harassment. To date, the application claims, the City’s officials are routinely confiscating homeless persons’ possessions.
The City and other respondents will be appearing in court on September 26, 2019.
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