NPO threatens legal action against community group

Souper Tropers, which assists homeless people in the City is taking legal action against a community group

An NPO that assists people living on the streets is taking legal action against a group of residents they say have spread lies and misinformation about them on social media.

Souper Troopers work to improve the lives of people living on the streets of the City Bowl, CBD and along the Atlantic Seaboard.

The organisation’s Caryn Gootkin, said they had launched an application against members of the Atlantic Seaboard Action Group to have them remove the posts they shared about the organisation on WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages.

In his affidavit, the chairman of Souper Troopers, Anthony Shapiro, said members of the groups were engaged in a “concerted campaign” to defame and discredit Souper Troopers.

“They have placed various posts on the group’s Facebook page which are highly defamatory of Souper Troopers, and which continue to cause Souper Troopers irreparable harm,” he said.

He said the posts claim, among other things, that Souper Troopers acts unlawfully, interferes with law enforcement in the City and that it has an anti-Semitic agenda. “The posts are visible to all members of the action group, and to anyone in the action group who chooses to share them with others,” he said.

He said they had tried to engage with the administrators of the group but they refuse to remove the posts.

“Their refusal to remove the posts is grossly unreasonable and has resulted in Souper Troopers having to launch these proceedings as a last resort. I respectfully submit that they should be ordered to pay costs on a punitive scale,” he stated.

He said Souper Troopers accepts the right to freedom of expression. “It accepts that others may hold different views about complex socio-economic issues that confront our society, and the best ways to tackle poverty and homeless in the City of Cape Town and not just the Atlantic Seaboard as the First and Second Respondent would want the public to believe,” he said.

He said, however, the posts and comments crossed a line. “They are false and calculated to impugn Souper Troopers’ reputation and to discourage people from donating to the charitable causes which Souper Trooper is responsible for implementing,” he said.

“Souper Troopers has, as a direct result of these posts and the controversy they have caused, lost at least one regular donor,” he said.

Action Group member Gary Trappler said many residents of Sea Point and Mouille Point had been asking who was giving the homeless living near the Sea Point police station food, tents and other basics necessities.

He said he posted a video of one of the homeless people telling them that Souper Troopers were a great help.

“This is what sparked Souper Troopers demanding that this post be taken down as it’s causing them damage. But I don’t understand because the interviewer is fair and the two people interviewed were complimentary about Souper Troopers,” he said.

“They say it’s defamatory but I say it’s complimentary and it’s the truth and the video clip is in the public interest.”

“I hope they do bring a court application demanding that I delete the post because they can’t suppress the truth. I wasn’t trying to defame them; quite the opposite. I can’t understand why Souper Troopers are denying or are upset with the truth,” he said.

In the 33-second video that he shared, a young homeless man can be heard saying that Souper Troopers give them everything including tents, food, toiletry, clothes.

When asked about who was the interviewer, Mr Trappler said he was not at liberty to disclose that. “If and when I receive court papers, I’ll be able to comment fully,” he said.

The previously homeless man and now founder of The Rehomining Collective, Carlos Filipe Mesquita, said he used to own property in Sea Point, became homeless and for six years lived on the streets of Sea Point.

He said shelters were unable to accommodate the thousands of homeless people in Cape Town. He said the groups who supported campaigns aimed at responsible giving, were not privy to the bigger picture.

“The limited services, inadequate beds in shelters leave homelessness people with no viable place to sleep, sit, eat or drink,” he said.

Asked about the work of the Souper Troopers, he said there was nothing wrong with treating homeless people with respect.