Begging in the city has become a serious problem, which is affecting visitors and locals who often feel threatened into handing over money. Two local business owners in the CBD have said that beggars have become a nuisance and are driving their business into the ground.
Shop owner Maria Carrira said, “They are a menace I constantly have to chase them away because they bother our customers and they harass them.”
Carrira owns the Mojo cafe, with her husband, on the corner of Thibault Square on the Foreshore. She said that on several occasions many of the beggars even swear at the customers.
“They swear and shout at the customers if they don’t give them any money and this is having a negative impact on our business,” she said. “When customers see beggars some leave the store and we feel it, because we losing money.”
Another store owner, Fatima Lattief from Al Nur’s fast food reiterated this, “I’ve been here for many years and a lot of the beggars that come here are either drugged or intoxicated and many of them are youngsters that probably have a family but instead choses this life.”
She recalls a shocking incident recently, when a beggar threw a hot cup of coffee on her.
“A customer bought a beggar food, because they don’t like to give money, they use it for substances. When the customer left, the beggar actually came up to us and wanted to return the coffee and food for money. When I handed the coffee over to him he threw the hot coffee on me,” she said.
Lattief said that the City of Cape Town should start doing something about them. “They should provide them with a place to stay or they need more by-laws to deal with this problem.”
Mayoral Committee Member for Social Services, JP Smith, said that the City only prohibits aggressive begging and considers this an offence.
“The City fines the person in this regard. We cannot arrest in this instance because we don’t have jurisdiction. It’s a losing battle because its not within the city’s legal jurisdiction,” Smith said. He added that all the city could do is engage with the beggars.
“We hold engagements with them, however, 85% of those beggars do not want help so we direct them to shelters and they decline,” he said.