city of cape town by-laws street people

City of Cape Town faces backlash over discriminative ‘street people’ form

Andile Sicetsha - 27.05.2021

The City of Cape Town is encouraging suburban residents to fill in ‘street people’ forms, a dossier that could criminalise the act of being homeless.

The City of Cape Town is embroiled in a legal battle over certain by-laws that target the homeless community and the latest attempt to strengthen its case was not well received, to say the least.

City of Cape Town is at war with homeless people

The City is preparing to argue its case in court over three by-laws that criminalise certain acts committed by what it calls ‘street people’.

In its view, adding further strain on the homeless — despite the traumas that may have led them to life on the streets — is the City of Cape Town’s way of fine-tuning its ‘social development programme’.

Vagrants who scour the streets in search of food and shelter are made to pay hefty fines for starting a fire to keep warm or building informal structures to shelter in on cold evenings.

According to these by-laws, homeless people can be fined the following amounts for these ‘criminal’ acts:

  • Making a fire in a public place: R1 500
  • Obstructing pedestrian traffic on the pavement with any object or motor vehicle: R300
  • Sleeping in a stationary motor vehicle in a public place: R300

The ‘street people’ form that drew ire from social media

Obviously, homeless people can, in no way, afford to lift these penalties since a loaf of bread is hard to come by on any given day. So, it begs one to ask why the City would enforce such by-laws on the homeless.

The latter will be unravelled in the upcoming court proceeding where the fairness of these rules will be placed under the microscope. The City, however, has escalated matters to strengthen its case.

The provincial government is pleading with the public to fill in what it calls ‘street people’ forms, a dossier that criminalises the homeless as violent and erratic illegal occupants of Cape Town’s suburbia.

Nicola Jowell, a DA council member, tried to rationalise this form in a Facebook post, where she pleaded with residents to “add their voice to the legal arguments that will be made.”

The form is formatted as a declaration where residents or businesses can attest to have been negatively affected by ‘street people’ before.

The criminal acts the form enforces include: urinating in the public road, robbing people, increase in crime as a result of the presence of ‘street people’, customer impact, damage caused to infrastructure and other examples.

The form can be viewed below:

Suffice it to say, this widely controversial call from the provincial government was not well received. These were just some of the reactions we picked out from disgruntled voices who shared their thoughts on social media: