The map below shows a detailed aerial view of settlements 1 and 2. Settlement 1 is the larger of the two. It houses most of the Onderpapegaaiberg homeless people. Most of these structures are shared by two extended families. It has about a dozen water borne sewerage toilets. There are several potable water taps. Settlement 2 consists of a small number of extremely limited floor area sized wendyhouses – between 15 and 20 square meters each. It has one portable toilet and one or two taps.
The map below shows the bush next to the vineyards. This is about a quarter of a kilometer away from the other settlements. The municipality does not allocate wendy houses to all homeless people. Therefore, some occupy spaces in this area where they set up camp. Boetie and Rosaline cleared an area of bush to make a camp. They sleep under a tarpaulin. When Stellenbosch Transparency recently visited this area we came across three men. The municipality had dismantled their makeshift shelter. They were sheltering under some small bushes from the heat of the midday sun. They were clearly destitute and in a state of shock. We brought them some food parcels.
Boetie’s and Rosaline’s problems started on 19 November 2021. One of the neighbourhood watch’s security officers questioned their right to be in the suburb. Boetie called me at the time. I interviewed both him and the security officer about the incident.
From stop-and-frisk to arrest, detention and trial
On Monday 24 January 2022 Boetie related the following. On Friday 21 January, law enforcement agents including ADT, ABC security and a police van, detained him at his home. That is at the camp in the bush next to the vineyard depicted in the third aerial photo above. The time was approximately 14: 00.
Allegations of theft
They took him to a house in Pelikaan Street, in the Stellenbosch suburb of Klein Vallei. This is situated in the area generally known as Onderpapegaaiberg. The house was about the third house from the west end of Pelikaan Street, on the left side facing south.
At the house in question there were about four white people with ADT and ABC security. One of the officials swore at him. He asked him where the “f**k” was a laptop that he (the official) alleged that Boetie had taken. But Boetie knew nothing about this laptop. He asked what this official was talking about.
Two policemen then arrived in a police van. They joined the group. The ABC security personnel claimed that people fishing at the side of the dam near Horizon House (and close to the third aerial image above) had seen Boetie walking with a trolley that day. Furthermore, they said someone had seen a person earlier in Pelikaan street, wearing the same clothes as Boetie. Thus this was the basis for accusing him. Boetie said that it probably was him walking with the trolley near the dam. There was nothing suspicious as he did this on a daily basis.
A CCTV camera from a neighbour’s house across the road (Pelikaan Street) reportedly had a picture of Boetie pushing a trolley in the street.
Stop-and frisk to arrest and detention
The police then detained him at approximately 16: 00 and took him to the police station. Here he saw the police had a brown docket. And he assumed that it contained a statement from the home-owner whose laptop had allegedly been stolen. But the police did not explain why they detained him. He had to remove his belt and shoe-laces. They put him in a cell at approximately 17: 00.
There were 13 other people in the cell. It had a division between sleeping and ablution sections.
They gave him food in the evening. But he was not hungry as he was upset.
On Saturday a detective took a statement from him. In which he repeated the above story. On Saturday they gave him three meals. But he saw no family. Likewise on Sunday they provided food, but he had no family contact.
On Monday 24 January at about late in the morning Boetie appeared alone before the magistrate. He had no recollection whether the prosecutor formally presented the charges. He did not think the public prosecutor mentioned the charge. Boetie claimed he had not seen a written charge. They asked whether he would defend himself. But he elected to have a state lawyer. Apparently the state defence lawyer was present in court. But Boetie didn’t get his name. The court agreed to postpone the trial to 10 February. They then released him. He went home. Later that afternoon he came to my house and related the story to me.
I subsequently made contact with Ndifuna Ukwazi and Chennels Albertyn. Ndifuna is a Cape Town-based organisation advocating for government support for well-located affordable rental accommodation.
Chennels is a legal firm specialising in human rights law. Unfortunately we were unable to get any legal support from these organisations.
When Boetie again appeared in court the case was remanded until 08 April. The court assigned a state attorney to defend him.
Stop-and-frisk consists of arbitrary allegations, leading to arrest, detention, trial and imprisonment.
Paul Hendler, Stellenbosch Transparency
From stop-and-frisk to R1000 fine
On Thursday 27 January Neels, a municipal law enforcement officer, fined Boetie R1 000. This was because Boetie failed to wear a mask in a public place. The incident happened at his residence near the Uitvalwerke. He said that Neels came straight up to him and asked him where he lived. Simultaneously two white municipal officials were walking in close proximity to them without masks. But Neels did not address this as a problem.
Stop-and-frisk as pressure to relocate?
Boetie opined that the the motive for his being fined was to pressure him to relocate. He thought that other parties are interested in the land where they squat in the open. Huis Horizon (a home for differentially-abled people on the western edge of the neighbourhood) might want to expand into the area. This area is on undeveloped land between the vineyards and the suburb. Therefore, It had potential to be developed.
Alternatively, he thought that a local farmer would like to use the land. In that case the farmer would need to move them and fence it off.
Boetie said that there were about six families living in tents there. He also said that he thought that ward councillor Johannie Serdyn was pushing for their relocation. But it was not clear where they should relocate to.
Given the above, he thought that the levying of the fine was part of the pressure to prompt them to move.
I subsequently called the Stellenbosch municipality to try and find out more information. However, there was no reply on their central switchboard number. I then called the municipality again and was directed to a Mrs Swanepoel, at the municipal court.
I discussed Boetie’s situation with her. And also the exorbitant fine for an unemployed, homeless person.
Responding, she explained that the fine could be reduced through negotiation with the prosecutor at the municipal court.
Mrs Swanepoel checked the case number after our initial call. Then she called me back to say there had been an error. The paperwork had been incorrectly completed. She withdrew the fine.
Had I not intervened the fine might still be outstanding. I reflected on this event. The court official did not concede that a R1000 fine was absurd for an unemployed, homeless person. Nor did she question the fundamental injustice of this action.
Paul Hendler, Stellenbosch Transparency