'Where is the humanity towards the homeless, especially in winter?'

JP Smith told the breakfast show on Tuesday morning that the City of Cape Town did not create a new bylaw to deal with the homeless, but that it was created a number of years ago.

He added that when compared to the by-laws of other cities in the country, Cape Town's was a lot more sympathetic to the plight of the homeless.

But there have been reports of belongings being confiscated from the homeless as well as fines being issued, and the SA Human Rights Commission has said it would be launching an investigation to see if rights are indeed being violated.

Human Rights Commissioner in the Western Cape, Chris Nissen, talks to Kieno Kammies about allegations that the City of Cape Town is issuing fines to homeless people for living on the street.

Even if you want to apply a law, any law...you just don't do it in winter. People are homeless for various reasons...and here is a little space for them to be warm just for the night, and then you come and tell them to bugger off.

Chris Nissen, Western Cape Commissioner - Human Rights Commission

No one, however, is above the law, he says.

Everyone is equal before the law and that includes homeless people and they have rights too.

Chris Nissen, Western Cape Commissioner - Human Rights Commission

Where is the humanity towards the homeless especially in winter, he asks.

He responds to claims that homeless people have weapons...

As a homeless person sleeping on the streets, you are not only exposed to the cold and the weather...but you are also exposed to criminal elements with people trying to steal your meagre belongings.

Chris Nissen, Western Cape Commissioner - Human Rights Commission

The bin digging is also part of recycling, he says.

What is something you throw away is a meal for them.

Chris Nissen, Western Cape Commissioner - Human Rights Commission

He says the issue of rehabilitating the homeless and getting them off the street is complex. Many come from such damaged childhoods that even when opportunities are offered it is challenging for them.

We should not use that argument "they don't want to" get off the street.

Chris Nissen, Western Cape Commissioner - Human Rights Commission

Nissen says he has spoken to the mayor of Cape Town and plans to meet next week. He adds that all the by-laws will be tested against the Constitution.

Take a listen to the full interview below:


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