The City of Cape Town is planning to cut down on the number of aggressive beggars in the CBD who have made a habit of accosting both tourists and locals into parting with money. The issue of aggressive begging has become more prominent in the central city of late, and the City are planning to establish a task team to address the situation.
The city’s chairperson for environment and spatial planning, Councillor Dave Bryant was keen to differentiate between regular and aggressive begging, noting that simply sitting on the side of the road panhandling was not illegal. On the other hand, there were certain beggars in the CBD who were more assertive in their soliciting of monies, something that was in contravention of the City’s by-laws.
“This is for instance if somebody follows a tourist or commuter around, and asks them persistently in a threatening way for money, until they hand it over,” he explained.
The City has this set up a small task team with the assistance of relevant role players in the central city, to see how best to address the issue. The team will seek to target the core group of individuals involved in aggressive begging, as opposed to painting all beggars with the same brush.
Also falling under this category will be car guards who go to extensive means to obtain extra funds from motorists. Whilst the City has official car marshalls, those found operating without City approval will also be held liable by the new task team.
“Anybody who is soliciting money without any formal agreement with the City, that is not official and it is illegal in terms of our by-laws as well,” he stated.
Bryant suggested there was an extremely fine line between aggressive begging and mugging, because people often resolved to handing over money out of fear for their safety. In such cases, the beggar could just use the defense that they were simply asking for money.
“We have to make sure there isn’t that blurring of lines, and that we enforce our by-laws,” he said.
He said they would rather encourage people, instead of contributing towards the situation by parting with monies, to donate those funds to the existing shelters in the CBD.
“We don’t want to tell people that they shouldn’t give money or food to anybody at all, but we found that the impact is much greater when it’s a professional who is dealing with your resources, and assisting a homeless person,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)