Nicole Gamaroff, Cape Town
I am a commuter who travels daily from the CBD to the northern suburbs by bus. Since December there is a lack of police and security presence on the Grand Parade and surrounds.
Homeless people sleep on the Parade, but some of them are creating a bad atmosphere. For example, I have already witnessed one of them throwing a brick at another. A passer-by could be badly hurt. Recently, while walking across the Parade to cross Darling Street, a street person interfered with me. I had to dodge her and she said “Lady, do not be afraid of me…” Luckily I keep my handbag in a plastic packet so it is always out of sight. I have it on good authority that, according to police in the area, they feel that the City of Cape Town is not providing them with sufficient police back up.
I was informed that two of them manage to move the unwanted crowd away from the Parade in the morning and then when the afternoon arrives, the crowd returns. I was also informed that these homeless people come from under the bridges near the foreshore and when they do return to the Parade, some of them become very aggressive when the police try and move them and even throw bottles at them.
Furthermore, the Parade, which is adjacent to our beautiful City Hal, is strewn with litter and broken glass and has become an eyesore. I would like to know what are the DA going to do about this?
Mayoral committee member of safety, security and social services JP Smith responds:
Street people are entitled to freedom of movement as outlined in the Bill of Rights. Also, it is not illegal to be homeless. However, like everyone else, street people are expected to abide by the laws of the country and the by-laws of the city – particularly the by-law relating to streets, public places and prevention of noise nuisances which prohibits certain behaviours.
The City’s law enforcement eepartment conducts regular patrols in identified hot spot areas which includes the Grand Parade.
Staff act on by-law contraventions and will attend to any illegally erected structures, fires in public places and anti-social behaviour. Action will be taken against anyone who transgresses by-laws or other legislation.
Due to shortcomings in national legislation, law enforcement as it relates to street people is ineffective in that we cannot issue fines or arrest them to appear in court in relation to these charges.
While the City is taking steps to address these shortcomings, we cannot forge ahead until the national government addresses these legal weaknesses. In addition, the City’s Social Development Department engages street people with various offers of social assistance, but the City cannot force anyone to accept help. The City of Cape Town’s social development and early childhood development departments’ street people reintegration unit conduct daily operations with law enforcement, the Central City Improvement District, SAPS and solid waste at the Grand Parade.
We also conduct weekly evening operations in the area. Strategic Assets employs 12 Law Enforcement officers assigned specifically to the Parade and EPWP workers to do daily operations in the area. The reintegration unit has not experienced any bottles being thrown and are working tirelessly to engage the street people in this area and build relationships to increase the numbers of people that agree to accept social support, including placement at shelters or reunification with their family. Solid waste assists in the removal of structures and waste at the Grand Parade on a daily basis.
Cape Town Central SAPS spokesman Captain Ezra October responds:
Cape Town Central Police notes your concerns regarding the Grand Parade. We have had regular meetings with all relevant stakeholders such as the City of Cape Town and security role players recently due to the concerns raised by the informal traders, Golden Arrow Bus Services and others regarding the increase of drug peddling, muggings and people living on the street which is a concern for business.
We have had positive response from the City who employed 12 additional law enforcement officers from Monday to Sunday, two months ago, and 10 cleaning staff members within the EPWP programme. The City has also put up eight CCTV cameras.
The law enforcement officers have been divided into two groups each, and their working hours have been adjusted from 6am to 2pm, and 1pm to 1am as a pilot project. We requested that a law enforcement kiosk be placed on the Grand Parade to create more visibility together with City Central Improvement District
We envisage daily integrated clean-up operations with all stakeholders and undercover operations with SAPS members dressed in civilian clothes.
The Hawks will also be used for operations.
During the past three weeks, police have arrested 65 people for drug-related incidents; six people for shoplifting and two people for general theft in the Grand Parade area.