Humane solution

Joey Hasson, Sea Point

I was shocked to read in these pages the suggestion by Chris van der Spuy that the city’s irrigation system be turned on those who sleep in public spaces.

How hardened we seem to have become in the language we use and the suggestions we make about people, without the slightest pause to consider the conditions in which they are living. Such talk provides a direct link with the past.

It is astounding how blind some residents appear to be to the injustices and inequalities of our city.

From the shelter of sea-facing apartments, we flex “ratepayer” muscle and presume what should be done about the homeless and the dispossessed.

A veneer of concern for “health and democracy”, hides an authoritarian view of urban order that has a greater concern for the benches and lawns of Sea Point promenade, or the walls of Ellerton Primary school, than the people who make their homes out of them.

But let us pause to think for a moment. Is it offensive to be homeless? Is it a crime to have no where to sleep?

Mr Van Der Spuy’s description of the poor and the homeless as a “health risk” and the image he conjures of trucks roaming the streets are eerily reminiscent of the waves of forced removals in this city of the colonial and apartheid eras.

These very reasons were used to justify the destruction of people’s homes and their lives, producing the situation he now criticises.

What we need now is redress, not further removals.

Much as certain Sea Point residents may wish to “wash them away”, the poor and homeless are people endowed with the same dignity and rights as our own.