Cape Town mayor Dan Plato says the controversy over the city council fining homeless people started inside the “ANC’s outrage-manufacturing machine”.
Opening a council meeting on Wednesday, Plato said the opposition ANC in Cape Town tried to paint the city as one that does not care for its homeless.
“The complete opposite is actually true – we do more to protect, assist and help our homeless than any other city in this country,” he said.
A month ago, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said it wanted an urgent meeting with the city council after receiving “hundreds” of complaints that the enforcement of street by-laws had resulted in homeless people being fined.
“Where is a proper policy on homeless people that does not violate the dignity of homeless people?” SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen asked at a media briefing after he visited people living on the streets.
His colleague, Tammy Carter, said the city council’s “aggressive” action violated the constitutional rights to health care, food, water and social development.
Plato said the homeless community included criminals hiding from the law. “There is no place for aggressive begging or drug selling, or smash-and-grabs – law enforcement have identified and arrested a number of criminals who try to hide among the homeless,” he said.
“We have laws in this country and it is our duty to uphold those laws, no matter who breaks them. There is no bylaw just for homeless people, that is absolute nonsense.
“There is no reason to sleep on the street or to set up illegal structures on sidewalks – there are beds in shelters – they are not full but some of those who should be making use of the shelters flat out refuse the services available.”
Plato said council services for the homeless include safe spaces, subsidies for shelters, and programmes helping with job creation, skills development and computer training.
“But we cannot force those who don’t want to make use of these programmes to get help, it is up to them to want to make use of the services we provide.
“In this city we follow due process, no matter how challenging or difficult that may be, because that is the only way to ensure good governance and a corruption-free administration.”