While the uproar around the City of Cape Town’s fining of homeless people for various violations seems to have died down, the case involving seven homeless people against the City relating to the fines and the confiscation of property now has a third party involved – a group of attorneys representing resident associations within the City Bowl.
The group, represented on-air during VOC’s Breakfast Beat show by attorney Tanya Nockler, explained that they are not trying to financially support the City but rather attempting to become a friend of the court and relay the experiences of residents suffering at the hands of some homeless people who ignore the law.
“It’s not a question of supporting the City, it’s a question of raising funds in order to bring an application to become a friend of the court and to place before the court the experiences and the view of the persons affected by a lot of the behaviour who live in the City Bowl and surrounding areas,” said Nockler.
Nockler clarified that the talk of crowdfunding for the City by the group of attorneys and residents associations was inaccurate, saying that it was, in fact, done for the costs of the legal team making the application to become a friend of the court. This application has now been made and the papers were served last week Friday.
Nockler argued that there has been “mischievous reporting” on the case between the City and the homeless in both the press and on social media, giving the impression that the City of Cape Town is “brutalising poor, innocent homeless people” when “it isn’t the case at all”. She continued, adding that many of the organisations they [as the legal team] are dealing with and representing are “incredibly supportive of people living on the street…”
“In our experience, there are only about 25-30% of people on the street who are truly homeless and really have nowhere to go… Unfortunately, 70-75% of people are just hardened street dwellers on drugs who don’t want to abide by any rules that the rest of society is bound by.”
Nockler indicated that to a large extent, crime in the Gardens is caused by people living on the street. She frustratedly added that litter remains a huge problem for residents in the area because of the actions of homeless people and argued that there’s no legitimate reason for individuals to not accept the assistance provided for them by the City.
“It’s very easy if you’re living in the leafy suburbs somewhere and filing applications for these people [the homeless] or living somewhere where you don’t have somebody defecating in your driveway or when you come outside and there’s no brothel being set up in your garden,” said Nockler suggesting that these are some of the key issues faced by residents.
However, while many in the city acknowledge the need for the law to apply equally to all citizens, just as many, if not more, find no logic in the issuing of fines to the most impoverished in society. The act of confiscating goods and issuing fines against those who already have close to nothing is one which does not resonate well with many Capetonians.
Although the grievances of residents in the City Bowl are valid, the methods employed by the City in enforcing local laws are evidently worth reconsidering.
Lawyers for the ‘homeless 7’ were not available for comment, however its believed that several organisations who work with street people and are in full support of the applicants will make an application as a friend of the court.