The City of Cape Town’s safety and security committee has confirmed that plans to fine homeless people who refuse shelter offered by the city are underway.
According to News24, homeless people who are found on the streets of Cape Town without permission could be given a fine if they refuse an offer to alternative shelters.
Chairperson Mzwakhe Nqavashe announced the committee’s endorsement of the new by-law amendments to the street, public places and prevention of noise nuisances, reports Sowetan Live.
However, the changes to the by-laws have not yet been finalised as they need to go to the mayoral committee before being brought to the council for final approval.
Activists have challenged the city in saying the by-law would give law enforcement more power and make it easier to arrest homeless people.
“The approval by the portfolio committee is the first step”, said Nqavashe.
“From here, the documents will serve before the mayoral committee and then final approval will need to be obtained from full council. As chairperson of the committee that drove these processes, I am incredibly thankful for the inputs we received on these matters.
“The amendments focus on the enforcement of the provisions in the legislation, and explicitly set out the powers of the city’s authorised officials while also providing for measures to prevent the abuse of those powers.
“The amendments are designed to help resolve complaints more effectively but also mitigate risks to the city, individuals and landowners by ensuring necessary and ongoing enforcement actions are supported by legislation,” Nqavashe adds.
The by-law has been in play since 2007 and the prohibition will be enforced humanely. He said a “person found sleeping in a public place without authority will first be issued with a compliance notice” under the amended by-law.
Meanwhile, Brett Herron, Good party’s mayoral candidate confirmed that the by-law might not pass the constitutional muster and there are about 14 000 people living on the city’s streets, according to Sowetan Live.
“The recommendation from that portfolio committee to adopt a bylaw that makes homelessness a crime is outrageous”, said Herron.
“It is inherent in being a human being to that you have to be somewhere at all times and if you do not have a home and nowhere to sleep, then sleeping in a public place cannot be unlawful.
“And that is a matter of human rights law that has been found in international courts where other cities around the world have implemented the bylaws. Those bylaws have been overturned by their courts because if you are a human being you have to be somewhere. If the state fails to provide an alternative then you cannot criminalise people for being homeless,” Herron adds.
Herron went on to say that the city should focus on providing transitional accommodation for homeless people before criminalising them as there are only 2 000 beds available in shelters and it’s impossible to accommodate 14 000 people.