Tents discussed at a virtual meeting

Homeless people living in tented-camps was on the agenda of a virtual meeting.

A virtual town hall session was held to discuss the question, “How has lockdown affected the ability to deliver safer communities?”

Stakeholders representing Gardens, Vredehoek, Oranjezicht, Higgovale and Tamboerskloof were present at the virtual meeting, organised by City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith and ward 77 councillor, Brandon Golding.

They discussed specific community concerns raised about safety and general City services and how they are affected by the Disaster Management Regulations.

Mr JP Smith said the City is dealing with a set of changes in law that are making it difficult to manage the public spaces in the way that the residents expect.

“We have a series of legal issues, proceeding with the implementation of lockdown regulations, the court ruling around Singabalapha camp and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) court rulings. These Disaster Management Acts and rigs provisions have created an environment within which our Law Enforcement aren’t able to uphold the City by-laws as the public expect,” he said at the meeting on Monday March 8.

Last year, the City was prohibited from interfering with the tent dwellers living on the pavement in Observatory in front of Arcadia Place.

The group of occupiers, calling themselves Singabalapha (We Belong Here), won an anti-eviction case in the Cape High Court against the City where the City was ordered to refrain from confiscating personal property and belongings.

The consequence of this, he said, is that they have an increasing number of tented camps going up and it started with only a few before lockdown but now they are now contending with over 400 tents in parks and recreation areas across the city.

He said they are faced with challenging circumstances and they are doing what they can to deal with the matter.

One resident asked when are they appealing the SAHRC case to which Mr Smith said they have been trying to get a date for the appeal for the last four to five months.

Another resident Carl Schmit asked why do residents have to live in the mess while they wait for court cases and why does the City not do clean-up operations on a regular basis.

Mr Golding said they do this based on what is logged on the City’s website and all these processes are driven by complaints from residents.

One resident asked about the request via a petition calling for the placement of a manned mobile public safety kiosk on the corner of Glynn and Buitenkant streets in Gardens.

Mr Smith said it was an extremely difficult request and it was not practically possible. He said they have over 400 requests like that in different areas and that is difficult without bringing additional resources on board.