20 May 2020
The City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement officers handed out fines to people living in tents on the lawn of the now demolished Arcadia Place old age home in Observatory on Wednesday morning. One man was arrested.
A fine of R300 was imposed for “Intentionally block or interfere with the safe space of a pedestrian in a public space”; R300 for “Street makeshift structure in public place”, “Fail to confine oneself to his/her place of residence and not falling within the exception contained in reg -16 (2) (a) - (e)” was given as the reason for another fine, also of R1,000. At least ten fines were handed out.
About 25 Law Enforcement officers were on the scene and traffic officers cordoned off part of the Main Road in Observatory. Two monitors from the SA Human Rights Commission were also on the scene.
“We’ve been here for eight months now,” said resident Salonica Mbambani. Mbambani questioned why they should be targeted during lockdown. She said the City was “ traumatising us and our children”.
“When will this end?” she asked.
Mbambani said that they were confused about what they were being charged for and refused to sign the fines. She said that Law Enforcement officers had tried to force one of the residents to sign, but residents had reacted and “made a wall”. In the scuffle, one resident was arrested.
In September 2019, about 200 backyarders, homeless people and shack dwellers occupied the vacant old age home owned by Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged (CPOA). The occupiers were evicted and the building was demolished. The evictees then moved onto the front lawn of the premises. The settlement, named Singabalapha by the occupiers, is home to over 40 people.
Barbara Vusa, Singabalapha resident and community leader, said that Law Enforcement officers had arrived before sunrise, making them sign fines. “And when we refused to sign the fines they forced everybody,” she said.
Vusa said she had been told by Law Enforcement that they would be forcefully removed on Thursday. She said that if the City wanted to remove them, they must be taken to an empty piece of land in the city centre. “They cannot treat us this way,” she said.
Richard Bosman, Executive Director for Safety and Security for the City of Cape Town, said, “The group of people living on the sidewalk in Observatory have been in contravention of the City’s by-laws for several months, since the eviction and subsequent demolition of Arcadia Place – the building that they had illegally occupied.
“The City has attempted to resolve the situation, but to no avail.
“All the while, there have been mounting complaints from residents about the situation. It has become completely untenable and the City has to act.
“Law Enforcement officers visited the site yesterday, 19 May 2020, to consult with the illegal occupants encamped on the side walk in Observatory and to issue compliance notices in terms of the relevant by-laws, affording the occupants an opportunity to remove their belongings and clear the sidewalk.
“They returned this morning and upon observation that there had been no compliance, officers acted and issued 21 fines (R300 each) in terms of the Streets and Public Places By-law.”