Cape Town could fine homeless people if they refuse shelter

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Law enforcement officers removes tents around Sea Point Tennis Courts.
Law enforcement officers removes tents around Sea Point Tennis Courts.
Gallo Images/Brenton Geach
  • The City of Cape Town safety and security committee plans to fine homeless people who refuse shelter offered by the city.
  • A person found sleeping in a public place without permission will first be issued with a compliance notice.
  • The proposed amendment, which falls under the Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances bylaw, is yet to be tabled before council for final approval. 

Homeless people found sleeping on the streets of Cape Town could be issued with fines if they refuse a reasonable offer of alternative shelter.  

This is according to new and amended bylaws announced by the City of Cape Town safety and security committee this week.

Chairperson of the committee, Mzwakhe Nqavane, said the committee unanimously approved the new and amended bylaws in its monthly meeting on Wednesday.  

The changes to the bylaws are not final though as they would need to go to the mayoral committee before they are tabled before the council for final approval.

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The changes relating to homeless people were made into the Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances bylaw.

Nqavane said bylaws are designed to help resolve complaints more effectively and mitigate risks to the City, individuals, and landowners by ensuring necessary and ongoing enforcement actions are supported by legislation.

He said: "It is imperative that the City manages our public spaces in a manner that makes them usable by all and ensures that our City continues to create jobs, attract investment and drives urban regeneration otherwise there will be more disinvestment, more job losses and more people losing their livelihood and ending [up] on the street."

The city's bylaw relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances has been in existence since 2007 and aligns with similar pieces of legislation in other metropolitan municipalities around the country, Nqavane added.

According to Nqavane, to ensure the prohibition is enforced humanely, and in compliance with the Constitution, the bylaw has been amended to provide for the following:

  • A person found sleeping in a public place without authority will first be issued with a compliance notice.
  • Such a person only commits an offence if the person refuses a reasonable offer of alternative shelter.
  • A court may not sentence a guilty person to prison. It may only fine the person.

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He explained: "Therefore, any concerns about the impact of the amendments on persons living on the street should be considered together with the primary focus of the City to first offer social interventions before enforcement actions take place."

He added that the city has an obligation to make sure that its public open spaces and the city remain sustainable, that there is equality before the law, and that while it offers assistance to help people off the streets, bylaws are being applied to everybody at the same time.

"The amendments to the bylaw focus on the enforcement of the provisions in the legislation, and explicitly sets out the powers of the City's authorised officials, while also providing for measures to prevent the abuse of those powers," said Nqavane.

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