South Africa

2021 ELECTIONS: CAPE TOWN

DA retains ‘homeless hub’ Sea Point, where care for the destitute is a hot topic

A row of tents next to tennis club courts in Sea Point, Cape Town, on 15 June 2021. (Photo: David Harrison)

Despite criticisms of the DA’s policies on homelessness, the party held on to power in Sea Point, Cape Town, where the issue has been fiercely debated – often with menacing results.

The Democratic Alliance has retained the Cape Town suburb of Sea Point, where candidates from the Good party and Freedom Front Plus (FF+) were at odds over the area’s growing homelessness problem.  

On Wednesday it was confirmed that the party had held on to Ward 54, which includes Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay. Nicola Jowell retained her position as ward councillor with a provisional 85% support.  

Official election figures for the ward are yet to be released.  

Jowell took to Facebook to announce her victory. She was congratulated by fellow candidates Paul Jacobson from the FF+ and Carlos Mesquita from the Good party, the first candidate who identifies as homeless to contest the largely affluent ward.  

Mesquita, who was homeless in Sea Point for about five years, told Daily Maverick the DA’s victory was unsurprising, and had previously predicted his chances of winning the election were slim.  

“My focus is homelessness and although I have helped to bring it to the fore, and to put it on a platform it’s never been before, I still feel I need to take it to the next level and you don’t just arrive at the next level, you get invited in.”  

He is a homeless rights activist and a board member at the Rehoming Collective.  

Mesquita intends to work closely with Jowell to advance homeless rights, as Jowell is prepared to listen “to the other side of the story”. Mesquita has openly criticised the city’s bylaws for criminalising poverty. 

Homelessness in the City of Cape Town has surged since the start of the pandemic. In early 2020, studies suggested upwards of 14,000 people were living in the streets in the metro. The hot-button issue has been fiercely debated in Sea Point, where an estimated 800 people are destitute.  

Feeding schemes in the area have also been followed, threatened, harassed and cyberbullied, and some ratepayers are concerned that street-dwellers are bringing down property values. 

Jacobson, who was named as one of the FF+’s “top 10” candidates for the Cape Metro, has been on the opposing side of the homelessness debate in the ward. He was accused of being linked to campaign flyers depicting naked or partially dressed homeless people, which questioned: “Why are vagrants still in occupation of the Atlantic Seaboard?” 

The pet store owner was also accused of doxxing (posting personal details about a person) of Peter Wagenaar, a Sea Point resident who was feeding the homeless out of his car.  The vehicle was later set alight. (A high court defamation judgment  in Jacobson’s favour did not find any link with the doxxing.)

Jacobson took to Facebook to congratulate Jowell on her win. He said he gave “all he could” and thanked “the prominent businessmen” who supported his campaign. Noting that support for the DA in the ward had dropped by nearly 10%, Jacobson said residents were “sending a message” to the city.  

Jacobson, who never expected to win the councillor slot, said his intention was to get proportional representation in council to allow the party to effect change. He’s contemplating taking a long, if not permanent, break from community work.  

On social media, Jowell said she was willing to work with the two politicians regardless of the difference in political beliefs.  

“We can all find ways to work together and find common cause around finding solutions and working positively towards the shared goals of a fantastic and world-class area.” DM

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  • There will always be ‘homelessness’ as long as we as a country are ‘experiencing’ negative per-capita economic growth and specifically when youth unemployment is 70%+.

    Ons is nou gatvol van die ANC regering.

    We need to take care of our own communities now because the ANC government is clearly incapable.

    The homeless in Cape Town are a symptom of the continuous influx of skills-scarse people from the Eastern Cape, which is substantially still a tribal kingdom.

    Why not sort the problem out at source – the Eastern Cape?

    I have lived with the druggies and prossies in lower cape town centre. I know how the game works.

    It needs a continuous feed of otherwise unskilled youth from outside.

    How do we fix this? Strict local rules. Nobody can squat full stop.

    Then fix at source. Stop BBBBBBEE, cos everyone knows its just dragging us down. Stop minimum wage and strong unions. There is no point in 70%+ unemployment scenario.

    Get real.

  • The Seapoint issue is not ‘homelessness’ it is drug addiction. The former is used as a red herring to distract from the real issue of what is really going on there: a conscious choice to live on the streets because drug use is not allowed in a shelter and rehabilitation program.
    These people must be fined, removed and bylaws enforced if they actively refuse assistance.

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