Reports earlier this week that the City of Cape Town planned to fine homeless people for the infringement of certain by-laws have caused outrage.
Following an article in The Citizen resulting from an interview on Cape Talk with City of Cape Town mayoral committee safety and security head JP Smith, questions were sent to Smith.
In the interview, he alleged the outrage over the article had been “manufactured” by the ANC’s “media machine” and their “political minions”.
He also said that those living on the street in Cape Town “have elected” to be there as the City had made sure there were alternative options.
Smith was asked what evidence he had to back up his claims of a “manufactured” outrage.
“During the election, numerous paid influencers were identified and exposed by the media,” he said, referring to an AmaBhungane report released in March.
“Since then we have been tracking these individuals and it was noteworthy how they fuelled an original media report on this that had gone unnoticed to elevate it to the point of national and international media attention,” Smith continued.
“They worked in unison and echoed the narratives that [were] subsequently used in the ANC is own press statements,” he alleges.
According to Smith, despite the ANC’s outrage, by-laws that affect the homeless in ANC-led metros are actually less pro-poor than those in Cape Town.
“Many of other metros have bylaws [that] ban begging, car guards and trolleys – we purposefully chose not to do so,” he says.
To further back up his claim that the ANC are hypocritically manufacturing outrage over the City of Cape Town, while implementing the same by-laws in their own metros, Smith shared a document comparing Cape Town’s by-laws to those in ANC metros.
“It is clear that most municipalities have tried to go about the enforcement by using the Public Open Spaces By-Law and Public Nuisance By-Law,” the document says.
According to Smith, other metros implement the same by-laws that the DA was being heavily criticised for implementing in Cape Town.
The Citizen has contacted representatives of every municipality mentioned in the document – Mangaung, City of Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay, Ethekwini and Ekurhuleni – to find out if their approach to their homeless is any different to Cape Town’s. These answers will be included in a follow-up article once they are received.
Smith was also questioned on his claim in the interview that the homeless were on the streets by choice.
The figure often cited for the amount of homeless in Cape Town is over 7,000. Surely they couldn’t all be accommodated?
“Of the 7,000 people, many are already in some form of accommodation or shelter,” says Smith.
“The shelters are continuously opening new bed spaces and we can always accommodate a new person,” he added. “There is no person who, if they ask for accommodation, will be shown away”.
Asked if the homeless may be unable to stay at shelters due to being charged to stay there, Smith indicated that the City provided “both formal and informal shelter opportunities,” and that payment in the City’s formal shelters was not required.
“The formal shelter opportunities do not require payment for the first 30 days and thereafter if the person cannot contribute financially they can add one hour’s worth of labour to assist with food preparation or otherwise,” he said.
According to Smith, the City’s shelters have been designed to be as attractive as possible to the homeless.
“We interviewed many homeless people before we built the safe spaces and structured it in accordance with their requirements to make it more attractive responding directly to the reasons they listed for why the formal shelters were not attractive,” he said.