First Published by GroundUp .
A group of civic associations have written an open letter to the City of Cape Town, opposing its proposed amendments to its Streets and Public Places By-law.
The amendments, if passed, will empower officials to conduct search and seizure operations without a warrant in certain circumstances. The by-law on Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances regulates the conduct of individuals in public spaces. For example, it prohibits people begging, spitting or urinating in public, or making a loud noise from their car.
The amendments relate to section 22 of the by-Law, which grants City officials certain powers, including issuing compliance notices and recovering costs from people.
The letter dated 12 May was jointly sent by the Observatory Civic Association, the Salt River Residents’ Association, Sea Point for All, the Woodstock Resident’s Association, Wynberg East Civic Association and the Walmer Estate Civic Association.
“The proposed amendments limit the constitutional rights to dignity, freedom of movement, privacy and property, are not justifiable in an open and democratic society based on dignity, equality and freedom.”
“It is, however, not just the proposed amendment of the 2007 by-law that is in breach of the Constitution, but already the 2007 by-law itself. It conflates a number of issues in one by-law and is unreasonably broad,” the letter stated.
The civic groups described the existing by-law as being “more than reminiscent of apartheid laws”.
The groups said that the current review of the constitutionality of the 2007 by-law in court, which resulted from homeless people being fined in 2019, is overdue. “The existing 2007 by-law limits citizens’ constitutional right in a disproportional way. It is too broad and restrictive for the harm it is trying to prevent, and it is blatantly anti-poor,” it said.
“It is a worrying development that the City is hurrying to make the by-law even more stringent while insisting on an insufficient public participation process during the Covid-19 lockdown. Instead, the by-law should be completely scrapped and redone,” the letter read.
“We therefore strongly oppose the proposed amendments and suggest that the City redrafts its by-law in line with the recommendations set out above for further public comment. Given the general impoverishment caused by Covid-19 crisis, the City needs to urgently concentrate on developing positive ways of assisting poor and homeless people rather than criminalising their destitution.”
The public have until Sunday, 17 May 2020 to comment on the draft laws. DM