Following media reports that the City of Cape Town has been ordered to halt the prosecutions of homeless individuals who are allegedly guilty of breaking by-laws, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security has indicated that they will not review the bylaws because if anything, in the City’s view, the laws are too lenient.
The City seemed to have suffered a loss last week when a judge in the Cape Town High Court made a ruling in the recent case brought against the City of Cape Town by seven homeless individuals. The ruling reportedly extends an interim interdict aimed at preventing City Law Enforcement officials from confiscating the property of homeless people and, according to some, harassing them for being homeless.
The extension was issued after the seven homeless people in the city brought a lawsuit against the City of Cape Town after they were issued with fines for sleeping in public spaces, among other alleged bylaw violations. Local media has been widely reporting on the issue of “homeless fines” and the City’s arguable harassment of homeless individuals in Cape Town this year.
It now appears that the City of Cape Town will appeal the decision.
“We are a bit confused because we had actually approached the court with a consensus between the City and the applicants. We had reached an agreement in terms of which the City could carry on normal enforcement operations and apply the bylaws and that if there was any unhappiness we would put in place an appeal mechanism for them to be able to contact senior staff members to ensure our staff always approach the homeless sensitively,” said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security at the City of Cape Town, Alderman JP Smith.
Smith says that even with the ruling, the City can continue with operations, issue fines and prosecute as per normal. He also insists that the City will “absolutely not” review their bylaws.
“All the bylaws in this country look the same…they almost all look identical,” Smith asserted before arguing that the City is doing what it can to prevent a degeneration of public conditions in Cape Town.
“We have to do our bit – we have to enforce the laws and the laws have to apply to every person in the city…We have stepped up [social development]…we’ve created a safe space in Cape Town so I will tell you that they have no reason to sleep outside. We’ve created a space that can accommodate them with showers, toilets, hot water and other services available – including job placements.”
Meanwhile, attorney and director at Dingley Marshall Inc., Lucien Lewin says that in his ruling, the judge was mindful of the fact that the court would need to be considerate of the sensitive nature of the issue and that it would be dealing with a case delving into the realm of socioeconomic rights.