“David and Goliath”: Homeless in Cape Town | Homeless

Cape Town, South Africa – Carin Gelderbloem was woken up early in the morning by a big rock hitting her tent. A group of high school students drank all day in the company garden, just on the way to the South African Parliament.

They are now threatening the homeless in it.

When Rameez Kemp, Gelderbloem’s boyfriend, went outside to protest, he was repeatedly beaten and stabbed. Cologne was wandering outside, and he managed to hobble to the entrance of the park. Due to excessive blood loss, two hours later, he was finally taken by ambulance to Somerset Hospital, with only one inch left in his life.

When she reported the crime at the Cape Town Central Police Station, Gelderbloem said that officials told her that it was her boyfriend’s fault that she chose to sleep roughly in the first place. This is October 2018-she met with the city’s police for the first time.

“When you stand up against law enforcement, you are David and they are Goliath,” she said. “They told us we don’t have any rights.”

During the phone call, Andre Trout, a spokesman for the Cape Town Police Service in South Africa, declined to comment to Al Jazeera about the alleged incident. “If she is turned away, she must file a formal complaint with the police management. We will not take it lightly,” he said.

Homeless residents of Cape Town report that the city’s law enforcement has confiscated identification documents, AIDS drugs and tents [Sindile Sydwell Kamlana/Al Jazeera]

51-year-old Gelderbloem has spent nine years on the street and on the street, claiming that law enforcement officers confiscated clothes, sleeping bags, dentures, and even the beads she used to make and sell jewelry. She said that in the dead of night, the municipality would tear off the cardboard and plastic sheeting she used to shelter from the wind.

Gelderbloem said such incidents are often accompanied by a lot of abuse. “They have never spoken to me like a decent person,” she said. “I asked them,’Do you talk to your mother like that?’ Don’t think that this will never happen to you. In the blink of an eye, homelessness can happen to anyone.”

ancient According to the lawThe homelessness rooted in the colonial era and the “pass law” exported by the Dutch and the British to conquer the indigenous population basically criminalized the homeless in cities across South Africa. In Cape Town, those lying, sitting or standing in public places were fined up to 2,000 South African Rand (146 US dollars). Although these regulations apply to everyone technically, their impact on homeless people is particularly serious. Amendments to the bylaws currently undergoing public review will allow law enforcement agencies to physically remove homeless people from an area and arrest them on the spot if they refuse to provide alternative shelters and seize tents.

In the United Kingdom, members of parliament called on the government to repeal the Wandering Act of 1824, which criminalized rough sleep. In Cape Town, Gelderbloem and 10 other homeless Cape Towns called for radical reforms of themselves.

In March, they filed two applications-one in the Western Cape High Court and the other in the Equality Court-to challenge the constitutionality and alleged discriminatory effects of the charter. Applicants were fined for violating these laws, and in their applications and Al Jazeera testified that their identity documents, blankets and other personal belongings were confiscated by law enforcement agencies. Since the initiation of the case, the lawyer representing the applicants stated that one of the applicants claimed that they were taken HIV drugs by law enforcement during a recent raid on Hope Street.

The applicant wishes to repeal these bylaws and demand constitutional damages of R5,000 (US$360) per person, as well as a formal apology from the municipality.

Homeless people in Cape Town say law enforcement agencies often tear plastic sheets from their tents, exposing them to the harsh winter weather [Sindile Sydwell Kamlana/Al Jazeera]

Last week, the City of Cape Town issued a press release, which was shared on Facebook by a number of city councillors from the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition faction in South Africa that controls the Western Cape, announcing that they are prepared to oppose the challenge to the constitution.

“Law enforcement officers have the responsibility to apply the law equally and respond to hundreds of complaints from residents about anti-social behavior, violations of laws and regulations, and crimes committed by some people on the streets every month,” it pointed out.

“When all social assistance proposals are rejected, New York City will issue a compliance notice and fines-this is a key legal mechanism that can be used to enforce the bylaws.”

City councillors from the Democratic League also sent a mass email containing a template form for sending complaints against the homeless to establish their legal case.

Jonty Cogger, a lawyer for Ndifuna Ukwazi, a human rights organization representing homeless applicants, said the city government’s response was “despicable” and “it is tantamount to inciting hatred against the homeless.”

“Soliciting complaints from taxpayers, residents, and businesses (privileged people) is a dangerous and divisive legal strategy that only exacerbates the vulnerability and marginalization of street dwellers in society,” he added.

Gelderbloem (right) and her boyfriend Rameez Kemp [Sindile Sydwell Kamlana/Al Jazeera]

According to data from the Western Cape Government, in 2019, there were 4,862 homeless people in Cape Town.

The latest research released in November 2020 by three non-profit organizations U-Turn, Khulisa Streetscapes and MES stated that the actual number exceeds 14,000.

JP Smith, a member of the city’s mayor committee responsible for safety and security, said there may be some “double counting” because multiple organizations participated in the compilation of the data. He admitted that after the country’s first coronavirus lockdown was imposed last year, the situation “has deteriorated drastically”. NGO investigations mainly used data before the first blockade.

The three groups also estimated that the City of Cape Town spent more than R335.2 million (US$24.4 million) on enforcement and punitive measures against the homeless, while spending only R121.9 million on social development programs. (8.9 million US dollars).

Smith said: “This is absolutely nonsense, a ridiculous distortion of the numbers,” among other things, he accused the author of treating the law enforcement budget as specifically for the homeless. In fact, the calculation of these funds used to monitor the city’s homeless people is based on a survey of 350 homeless people, government reports, and interviews with officials.

Smith added that of all the cities in South Africa, Cape Town has the most liberal policy on the homeless, and similar regulations exist all over the world.

However, for Gelderbloem, it doesn’t matter. “We must win this case. The city government must realize that homeless people are also human beings,” she said.

It may take several months to make a ruling.

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