Cape Town: Civil society organisations took to the streets of Cape Town yesterday to protest against the new City of Cape Town’s Unlawful Occupation By-law and what they call poor service delivery.
The protest combined community-based organisations including Reclaim the City, Movement for Care, Social Justice Coalition, Housing Assembly, Singabalapha and Ndifuna Ukwazi, all in the spirit of demolishing the by-laws that they deem to be anti-poor.
Chairperson of the Social Liberals for Backyard Dwellers (SLBD), Shariefa Nolan said that the peaceful march was for basic human rights.
“We will continue to march against these by-laws that infringe on our rights, these are colonial laws that marginalise brown people. We have the right to demand basic services for our people. Clearly our government is failing us and do not have our interest at heart,” she said.
A UCT student named Tommaso, who preferred for his last name to not be mentioned, said the new laws speed up the process of evicting people living on the streets and confiscating their materials.
“In general the by-laws are challenging the definition of what a home is, which then gives them the power of forcefully removing anyone whom they would define as not having a home.
“You cannot evict someone from their home, but if you declare a structure to not be a home then you can remove them, because then you are not technically evicting them,” the student said.
Jo-Ann Cupido, who is a member of the Housing Assembly, said that the by-law disempowered people and emboldened the police.
In response to the protest Mayor Dan Plato said: “These crucial by-laws will help us to protect land and buildings from unlawful occupation. We are a caring city seeking to uphold the rule of law.
“It will officially be law in Cape Town that an offer of social assistance first be made, including shelter, to ensure the constitutional enforcement of the prohibition on sleeping in public places.”
Plato added that the City had a constitutional obligation to make sure that public open spaces and the city remained sustainable and that there was equality before the law.
The City of Cape Town released a press release last month stating that by-law amendments were designed to help resolve public complaints more effectively, by ensuring enforcement actions are supported by legislation.
The report indicated 350 hotspots for public complaints around by-law violations relating to people living on the streets.