Verbal abuse, violence and being spat on are what some Hout Bay residents stopping at the Suikerbossie traffic lights have to endure daily from beggars and informal traders.
And while the numbers of loiterers have increased over the years, the City of Cape Town says it empathises with residents but it doesn’t have the manpower to patrol the area regularly.
Hout Bay resident Anthony Allen said offences at the traffic lights vary from urinating and defecating in public places; littering; knocking, kicking, smacking or spitting on car windows; smash-and-grab robberies, selling illegal goods and damaging vehicles.
“There is not a day that passes without an incident at the intersection as a result of these loiterers,” he said.
Urinating and defecating in a public space posed serious health risks, and it was time for the City to take action, he said, adding that many victims did not bother to report the incidents, believing nothing would be done, but that would only make matters worse.
“The area needs regular law enforcement presence if normality is to be regained. And the current danger to people standing in the roadway is unacceptable, not to mention the increase in crime,” he said. He has volunteered to work with law enforcement to tackle the problem.
Victoria Avenue resident Andre Riviere and his wife use the intersection daily. About two weeks ago, the couple stopped at the traffic lights, and Mr Riviere opened his window to ask an informal trader the price of the Arum lilies he was selling.
“At that moment, the robot turned green, and I started moving forward slowly, indicating to the man that I will not be buying flowers from him.
“He pushed the flowers into the car insisting that I buy them, and I had to pull over on the side of the road as he would not let go of the car,” Mr Riviere said.
Joy Termorshuizen said that about a month ago, a very aggressive man had kicked and punched her car at the traffic lights. She did not report the incident but now tries to avoid the intersection.
Siggy Nebe was spat on when he refused to give a man money at the traffic lights.
“I suspect the man had mental issues,” he said.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said the City did its best to tackle by-law infringements despite limited resources.
Many of the incidents described by the residents, he said, were crimes.
He said many of the incidents mentioned such as spitting on car windows, smash-and-grab robberies, car damage and attempted hijackings were criminal acts that would require intervention from the South African Police Service (SAPS).
And although loitering and the sale of goods like Proteas and Arum lilies are not by-law offences, urinating and defecating in public places, littering and aggressive begging are. He said the by-law contraventions will be brought to the attention of the City’s Law Enforcement Service for their urgent attention
Mr Smith suggested that local enforcement agencies work with the SAPS, Law Enforcement, neighbourhood watch organisations and private security companies to find a solution to the problem.
“Another possibility is to consider the appointment of one or two rent-a-cops.
“The rent-a-cop concept was introduced in 2008 when the City Council agreed that individuals, companies, non-governmental organisations or institutions could sponsor Law Enforcement, Metro Police and Traffic officers, thus enabling the City to increase levels of visible policing without the budgetary implications,” he said.
Mr Allen said although the concept of rent-a-cop was a good one it would not solve the problem.
“Unless the rent-a-cop is from Hout Bay he will lack the passion and vision to deal with the problem,” he said.
SANParks Regional Ecologist, Carly Cowell said Arum lilies aren’t threatened although some Protea species are.
“Flower sellers need to have collection permits from CapeNature and permission from land owners to collect the flowers.
“SANParks does not give permission to collect flowers in the Park. In addition, City of Cape Town needs to provide a permit to sell at the traffic lights too,” she said.
Mayoral committee member for environmental, Energy and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe said In terms of trading legislation, trading should be done from designated trading sites only.
Community Crime Prevention (CCP) spokesman, Gerhard van den Bergh said the problem at the Suikerbossie interchange was an age old one. He urged motorists not to support or interact with the loiters and said as long as they are supported by motorists the problem will continue.