Stop-and-frisk harassment

6 Apr 2022

DV homelessness map

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.

DV homelessness sttle 1 & 2 map

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.

DV homelessness sttle open map

Stop-and-frisk incident

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.

This was the beginning of a pattern of harassment. Towards the end of January 2022 the police arrested Boetie on suspicion of theft. A few days later municipal law enforcement fined him R1 000 for not wearing a face mask. Keep in mind that Boetie and Rosaline are unemployed. They receive no government grant. How does the municipality think he would pay this fine?

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.

Court appearances

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.

Fine withdrawn

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

11 Comments

  1. Brett Commaille

    Mr Hendler, I’m deeply disappointed in the one-sided and sadly uninformed nature of your article.
    There are many inaccuracies and misrepresentations, it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s begin with Boetie. The fact that Boetie feels victimised and that you chose to believe his every word, painting him as a helpless victim does not make it so. Nobody suggests that all homeless people are criminals. Suggesting the residents of Papegaaiberg have this view is simply fantasy.
    Boetie however, is a criminal. On the day in question, he and his partner Rosie, were walking through the neighbourhood looking for “opportunities”. They pushed their stolen blue checkers trolley past a house and stopped it in the street. He went into a front yard where he spent 15 minutes observing the occupants inside the house. He found the front security gate unlocked and when he saw a gap, broke into the house, grabbed a laptop from the table and then ran outside. He then set off running down the street, Rosie followed, running and pushing the trolley.
    The “alleged’ incident is as real as the nose on my face. I know because I was called to help. I immediately saw the cameras, checked the footage, saw the 2 intruders and their extended stay at the house, as well as their chase at speed to escape. I also spoke to several witnesses identifying them as the only people with a trolley walking in the neighbourhood, including someone who saw them moments before they stopped at the house.
    Furthermore, after an extensive search, the laptop was recovered. Unusually, it had a broken screen so had no real street value. Rosie, who had made off with the laptop to her spot, seeing the police and residents searching for it, sent a group of local children to return it to the owner – hoping for a reward. The children confirmed it was Rosie who gave them the laptop.
    I cannot explain why he is not in prison, why the police have not kept him behind bars and why you did not check to verify his story of victimhood. I cannot tell you why many politicians who have clear evidence of their crimes walk free and even continue their ways. I do not have answers to this. We have many problems in our overworked, under-resourced legal system. Feel free to investigate further.
    What I can tell you is that Boetie is a criminal, he may not yet have gone through a proper legal process, but he most certainly looks for opportunities to steal and did so on that day. And he was caught. If he had not just left with the laptop, but had done something else in that house, what would your article have said then? Is he a victim because it’s only a laptop?

    So, Mr Hendler, do you believe that a criminal should freely walk the streets while the residents are left terrified in their homes knowing they may say or do nothing? You focus on the criminals’ rights to not be stopped and “harassed” as you call it. But you offer no balance, no response, merely misguided accusations. Uninformed ones.

    You take aim at Stellenbosch Watch, as a targeter of the homeless. In fact, their track record is completely the opposite. During Covid Lockdown, Stellenbosch Watch set up feeding schemes for the homeless who were relocated to sport facilities. They ferried many to doctors, arranged clothing and provided help in any way possible. They actually have a stellar reputation with the homeless and are in fact one of the most trusted names amongst them.
    But if your only source is a criminal who’s clearly trying to be painted as an innocent victim, the truth is of no importance.
    My only hope is that you try to obtain a more balanced view before you launch a flurry of misguided and blatantly false accusations.

    Reply
    • Paul Hendler

      Dear Brett, Thank you for your detailed comment. I welcome your presentation of these facts and am publishing them here for readers to see. I appreciate your giving the other side to this story. You are correct that I should have gotten that side first before publishing. I think that my past interaction with you and your colleagues about incidents of stop-and-frisk, where I knew the people concerned were innocent, did not develop the way I had hoped. For instance I tried to engage with the neighbourhood watch regarding a concrete definition of suspicious behaviour but I was rebuffed. You at the time misinterpreted my inputs as being in denial of their being a crime problem in our suburb, something which I had acknowledged several times in what I had written. That said, I acknowledge your point, but just wanted to point to the historical context. Regarding your criticism that I am making a victim out of criminals, I would like to say that we have a considerable number of victims of our socio-economic system living on our doorstep, which is where Boetie and Rosie come from. I give them a voice because they remain voiceless. I have also witnessed the extreme overcrowding and inadequate housing of many other backyard dwellers in Kayamnandi, Cloetesville and Idas Valley already several years ago. Without in any way condoning criminal acts it should be noted that some people who live under these conditions and are pushed to the limits, respond through anti-social behaviour. Addressing these will require major shifts in local and national budgets, ultimately in policies and strategies. The approach of the Stellenbosch local government (whether DA or ANC led) and other social forums and security structures of the town does not look at the broader context and facilitate the authentic (democratic) empowerment of the majority of its citizens (who remain black working class and poor). What you describe as Stellenbosch Watch’s assistance to the homeless is highly commendable and I laud it as positive humanitarian action. Humanitarian interventions however do not address root causes. We are still left with reports of homeless people being treated the way reported in The Sun. And Mr Antoon Van Zyl, then CEO of Stellenbosch Watch, did say to me (during an interview) that he wanted to chase “the bergies” out of town. I have studied and written about the Stellenbosch land and housing situation for many years – my conclusion is that the black working poor and unemployed are being pressurised to relocate to Klapmuts rather than solutions being seriously explored close to the town centre and in existing residential locations. So while we need immediate humanitarian responses – and I am glad to hear about what Stellenbosch Watch did – there are broader structural social, political and economic issues that if not addressed will continue to destabilise our communities and our country. I write about this and my intention is to raise a different way of “seeing” our deep social problems and providing a critique of the limitations of charity and philanthropy. You refer to evidence of Boetie’s theft of the computer, and his and Rosie’s illegal entry to the property in question. I assume that this will be presented in his trial that takes place today. Let us wait for the court to assess the evidence and make a ruling. I am committed to getting that ruling and publishing it. Kind regards, Paul.

      Reply
  2. Flip Liebenberg

    What a load of bull shit

    Reply
  3. Flip Liebenberg

    What a load of bull shit.

    Reply
  4. Flip Liebenberg

    Paul, this is a load of BS. If you want to play mother Theresa, go do it somewhere else. You atrack more unwanted elements into our neighbourhood. We want less. As a aster of fact, we don’t want any. .

    Reply
    • Paul Hendler

      Dear Flip, I sent you a private e-mail explaining that I had not approved your comments which I found offensive, but invited you to make substantive criticism. I also did not want to embarrass you by publishing your ad hominem attack on me. You replied explaining your point of view and saying that you were OK with your views being published. As I indicated to you I would, I have published all your comments including our interaction privately by e-mail. I leave that as it is as my viewpoint regarding the ‘othered’ poor, unemployed and marginalised in our society, diametrically different from yours, is explained or implicit in my responses to Brett and Rudi.

      Sent at 12: 01 p.m. on 10 April 2022, by Flip Liebenberg:

      “Good day Paul.

      You’re narrative/argument is nonsense and one sided. Boetie is a criminal. The majority of Onderpapegaai berg residents do not want him here. We don’t want anybody here that does not own a home or have friends and family here. What else would one want to do here. Steal and/or beg. The more people you feed from home, the more will come and linger around. If you want to start some outreach programme, go do it where they live not among our homes and children. You’re conduct is inviting criminal elements into my living space. You defend them and attack law abiding and tax paying residents. That does not sit well with me. And yes I am cross. You are welcome to publish my comments.

      Regards
      Flip Liebenberg

      On 10 Apr 2022, at 10:37, Stellenbosch Transparency <paul.hendler@stellenboschtransparency.co.za> wrote:

      Dear Flip,

      Your comments in response to my piece are undignified and ad hominem attacks on me. I think it would have been embarrassing for you if they were made public.

      Therefore I did not publish them.

      However, if you have substantive criticism of my narrative/argument (as in the case of Rudi’s and Brett’s comments), you are welcome to submit these and I will publish them, .

      Kind regards,

      Paul.

      Reply
  5. Rudi Krüger

    Hi,
    You made a good case for the homeless. Can you do the same for the residents being harassed and sometimes attacked, robbed and raped by the homeless(no colour/race implicated in this statement, as in your piece above). Maybe elaborate on their rights as law abiding , tax paying citizens as well. Always good to have both sides of the story discussed.

    Reply
    • Paul Hendler

      Dear Rudi, You make a good point. I would like to do a piece on the extent of crime in Onderpapegaaiberg. Several years ago I interviewed Mr. Antoon Van Zyl, then CEO of Stellenbosch Watch. He provided me with a limited sight of these statistics. I noticed at the time that about 50 per cent of them were described as ‘suspicious behaviour’. This raised the question of what constitutes suspicious behaviour. I suggested that we look at clear definitions/examples of suspicious behaviour which could then be explained to the local security officers. This would mean that they would not have carte blanche to stop and question anyone who did not fit the profile of the neighbourhood. They would only stop people who objectively could be said to exhibit suspicious behaviour. I thought that in this way we could get a balance between addressing legitimate security concerns and respecting the rights of citizens to constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement. I take the security concerns very seriously. During 2017 we had a day light break in at our house and a trashing of our bedroom cupboard by burglars. Our domestic employee, who was on the property (in fact inside the house) at the time, was severely traumatised. As I refer in my reply to Mr Commaille, this suggestion was not taken up. The message I got from a meeting of the ward committee, that I was invited to, was to desist from publishing my critical views and rather join the neighbourhood watch initiative. I responded saying that critical public debate is essential in a democratic society, and that we can agree to disagree, but that we should not stop talking to each other. There are points of view from residents in this suburb. The neighhbourhood watch represents probably a widely shared view (although it’s not the only view). I think it would be correct and useful to publish that view. As this is a crime related discussion I have therefore suggested that we use the crime statistics for the suburb, that I assume are in the possession of Stellenbosch Watch, as a starting point. We can also record details of other stories, anecdotes of crime events, and this can include a video interview or two. In my reply to Mr Commaille I explained the perspective from my side. I’d like to add that I have a deeper perspective namely that each social grouping has its own perspective and I would record your and the neighbourhood watch’s perspective in congruence with how you see the situation. I have given you a bit of a background here to demonstrate that your views can be projected as you see the situation, without the risk of censorship, on the Stellenbosch Transparency website. Kind Regards, Paul Hendler

      Reply
  6. Brett

    Paul, thank you for publishing my comment. Note, Antoon van Zyl has not been Stellenbosch CEO for several years. They have always been and still are truly a community safety focussed organisation. As residents, we have very little we can do to fix the homelessness issue. Instead, the city and government need an active policy and solution. We have to deal with the consequences of their current lack of action. Using your platform to give voice to those with solutions would be a more balanced use of the opportunity.
    As for Boetie, I don’t really have faith that the legal system will serve justice, the resources seem to be failing us all, including the police. But I know exactly what I saw, and I know Boetie and Rosie will continue to roam the neighbourhood looking for their chance to take whatever they can.

    Reply
    • Paul Hendler

      Dear Brett, are you able to advise how I can get hold of the footage that appears to be the crucial evidence? According to Boetie it was footage held by ABC security. Kind regards, Paul.

      Reply
    • Paul Hendler

      Dear Brett, I take your point that resolving some of these issues is out of the hands of Stellenbosch Watch and the Onderpapegaaiberg neighbourhood watch, simply because of the enormity of the challenges and required operations. Nevertheless, there were things that could have been done on a small scale that would have been a reaching out rather than a fencing off. In my past blogs I have referred to an initiative, Vuya Endaweni, started by a neighbour in 2009, which advocated for creating an environmental education centre on the nature reserve that is the Papegaaiberg. Part of this initiative included training and appointing unemployed people from Kayamnandi as rangers and also to keep the cemeteries tidy. This would have created ears and eyes on the ground and made it difficult for anti-social and criminal types to skulk in the cemeteries and on the Papegaaiberg. There was also a proposal for turning the northern edge of the Papegaaiberg (next to Enkanini) into a food garden, which would have provided employment and food. A few years later Vuya Endaweni linked this idea to a novel proposal to rejuvenate the Kayamnandi Corridor and open it up for the literally passing trade (it had become – and still is – a white elephant). The furthest progress we made was some municipal bursaries to train nature guides (from Kayamnandi and Cloetesville) who then set up their own businesses. The other ideas – which if implemented would have provided a supporting environment for tour guides businesses – came to nought because the council leadership and municipal management did not support them. In fact they ignored our proposals (formally presented) entirely, adding insult to the failure of the hard-worked and thought-through ideas (with colleagues from Kayamnandi). The support from Onderpapegaaiberg residents was minimal and some were quite frosty about this. As the security situation deteriorated the local neighbourhood watch opted to build the security fence, allegedly to trap robbers and criminals who were chased at night, but the fence was also seen by particularly many Kayamnandi and Enkanini residents as a way to shut them out of our suburb. Almost four years on it is clear that the fence is not serving its purpose of effectively dividing the spaces from each other. Almost all the electrical wire running on top has been stolen, presumably taken by unemployed people and sold. There are at least half a dozen panels that have been cut and removed in the perimeter by the cemeteries. In addition to providing cash from sales these have left gaps for pedestrians to walk more quickly up the hill on their way home. The R800 000 plus invested in the fence can be described as unthought out, reckless and wasteful expenditure. This money, spent on supporting the initiatives I referred to would have been a sustainable investment. In my opinion, a common theme running through the resistance to a reaching-out-approach as opposed to a fence-them-off approach, is the requirement to remove the homeless and poor from Stellenbosch town and its suburbs, out of sight, out of mind. And Klapmuts was developed as the new dumping ground. You might protest that nowhere does Stellenbosch Watch and the neighbourhood watch intend this. But there are implications to the securocratic strategy. The intention is often not mentioned openly, there are silences in the discourse, it is sometimes unconscious. But many events indicate that this is the underlying driver of the response of suburbanites and the local government. After the looting in Kzn and Gauteng last year, I think that this is a precarious approach. In our lack of attention to this bigger picture detail we could be hoist with our own petard. Regards, Paul.

      Reply

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