Soup kitchen threatened again

2017-01-31 06:01
 Cecil Begbie runs a soup kitchen form his home in St Joseph’s Road, Lansdowne. Begbie distributes the food on a field opposite his home feeding more than 100 people daily. A neighbour has laid a complaint with the City of Cape Town.  PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

Cecil Begbie runs a soup kitchen form his home in St Joseph’s Road, Lansdowne. Begbie distributes the food on a field opposite his home feeding more than 100 people daily. A neighbour has laid a complaint with the City of Cape Town. PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

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Four years after initially being taken to court for his Good Samaritan deed, a religious leader is again being threatened with legal action.

Reverend Cecil Begbie has been operating a soup kitchen from his home in St Joseph’s Road, Lansdowne for 24 years. He was served with a noise nuisance notice on Friday 20 January.

People’s Post previously reported that his soup kitchen had been threatened with closure before due to zoning regulation issues because he ran the soup kitchen from his property (“Charity clash”, 29 May 2014).

Begbie says he received the latest notice from Metro officers.

“The charge is that I ‘permit noise from a private residence’. Our immediate neighbours have complained that our soup kitchen people are making a noise and disturbing them. I refused to sign the summons because at no point have I permitted noise from my private residence.

“I told the police that if the neighbours are claiming that our soup kitchen people are making a noise then they should charge those they are alleging are making the noise. In fact, they are charging the wrong person,” Begbie says.

He says the 2014 case was withdrawn. He chose to not run the soup kitchen from his home anymore and instead now serves the food from the open field opposite his home.

“We have made every effort to appease our neighbour by not serving soup within the precincts of our house anymore but rather at the furthest point of the open field across the road from our house which is far away from our neighbour’s house,” he says.

Begbie explains the food is distributed daily between 13:00 and 14:30 to about 120 people from Hanover Park and Philippi and unemployed people from the Lansdowne area.

“I feel it is a personal attack on me but I will let the law take its course in this matter. We definitely do not want the soup kitchen to close because it feeds so many people and many of them only have this meal for the day,” Begbie says.

One of the neighbours, who did not want to be named out of fear of reprisal, says they are not against the soup kitchen. “We just do not want it in our area. The pastor has huge premises at his church where he can serve the soup. Why does he not do it there? We have to contend with people making their way into our community and we have no idea who they are. We have break-ins at our homes and it’s because of elements from outside our community who are making their way into the area,” the resident says.

He adds the people who visit the soup kitchen urinate, defecate and litter on the open field.

The neighbour who Begbie alleges lodged the complaint did not want to comment when approached by People’s Post.

“We will settle the matter in court,” the neighbour says.

Demi Smidt, who queues daily for the “only meal” he has, says they are unhappy about the soup kitchen’s possible closure.

“I believe this is pure jealousy and is really unfair to all of us who benefit from the soup kitchen. The other day I read that people call us vagrants when that is not the case. We are people who live in homes but are unemployed and cannot afford a plate of food every night,” he says.

Jennifer Ryneveld says she also comes to the soup kitchen every day.

“Hearing that the soup kitchen might have to be closed really makes a lot of us unhappy. This is our only meal and the people who are complaining do not know what it’s like to go to bed hungry at night. Begbie is doing a great thing for us and it’s sad that people are complaining about it,” she says.

The beneficiaries, after receiving the news from Begbie, said they wanted to support him at court on Thursday 25 May.

JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security, says the people who queue for the soup kitchen can also be fined individually.

“However, the City has only received complaints in respect of the soup kitchen itself. The complaint is noise nuisance which is interfering with the comfort and convenience of the complainant in a residential area.”

Asked what could happen to Begbie after he refused to sign the notice, Smith says: “If the accused refuses to sign the notice then the officer who is charging him would write on the notice that he refused to sign. If he does not show up on the appearance date then the officer and his partner will testify in court that the accused refused to sign. The magistrate will then issue a warrant for his arrest.”

Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport and urban development authority, says the home is zoned as a single residential property.

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