The Human Rights Commission is set to meet with Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato next week over the city’s policy on the homeless.
The commission said they’ve received hundreds of complaints from homeless people regarding their treatment by officials.
The city’s bylaws state that people can be fined between R300 and R1500 for obstructing pedestrian traffic on the pavement, and setting up fires in undesignated areas.
It’s cold and wet at Van Riebeeck Park in Vredehoek, where a group of homeless people are trying to keep warm under their structures made of plastic, rocks and planks.
They’re hopeful their makeshift structures will not be demolished.
Among those living there was Martin Lodewyk; he’s an ex-prisoner who said he’d received at least eight fines from the city thus far, amounting to thousands of rands, money he just doesn’t have.
“Where will I find the money to pay the fines? If I don’t will they send us to prison? They beat us sometimes and I do nothing.”
Sitting on a crate in the cold with a blanket covering her legs in Upper Buitenkant Street, 55-year-old Magriet Pienaar said she received a R500 fine three months ago, she also doesn’t have the money to pay it.
Pienaar said she was sitting on the pavement after she stepped on a nail and was waiting for an ambulance.
The emotional woman said has been on the streets for 14 years, she says law enforcement officers often confiscate their materials and personal belongings.
“I don’t work, I live on the street. How will I be able to afford to pay that fine? Your blankets, your clothing and the food you have, they take it with. They treat us like dogs. We are people.”
The city maintained that its key goal was to get homeless people off the streets, into temporary shelters and then reintegrate them into society.
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