Begging for Change

New bylaws passed in Cape Town now make it illegal for beggars to:

  1. Touch someone without their consent.
  2. Follow someone in a manner or conduct that influences reasonable fear for bodily harm.
  3. Continue to beg from someone after being turned down.

The bylaw also prohibits fornication, urination, defecation and spitting in public. And living in your car. Hell yeah.

Let’s be very clear: it doesn’t make begging illegal; it makes aggressive begging illegal. Anyone who has actually been accosted by aggressive and sometimes even violent beggars welcomes this bylaw. Certainly, anyone who ever encountered ‘Cyclops’, the one-eyed beggar in Rondebosch who begs with a stick raised in his other hand, would welcome the opportunity to call the police and have the violent fucker thrown in jail.

But not these bleeding hearts. They say it’s retrogressive and out of the dark ages. Interesting that they all seem to think it outlaws begging, but never mind that. None of them seem to recognize that while it’s not a crime to be poor and have to resort to begging, it is a crime to threaten someone in order to get money from them. Here’s one example of the idiocy: Sandra Morreira, director for The Homestead, which deals with street children, said:

This bylaw does not want to see beggars in town and it will make it impossible for them to survive.

Really? So is she implying that currently the only way beggers get money from people is to harrass and threaten them, and that begging in a non-aggressive manner will result in them being unable to survive? Interesting. I thought she was on their side. Here’s another one: Colin Arendse, secretary for the Homeless People’s Crisis Committee, said:

Given the social standing of homeless people, most are indigent and such a bylaw is out of sync with our new-found democracy.

I’m sorry, out of sync with our new-found democracy? Which party was it that was promising violent begging in exchange for your vote? Where in the constitution does it protect the right to threaten people with bodily harm if they don’t give you money?

Let me be clear on something: i don’t give money to beggars, because it only perpetuates the cycle. But i am never, ever rude. I turn them down politely, and if they are respectful in any way of their fellow citizens they will leave it at that. Those who harrass you, follow you, grab at you and continue to demand money long after it has been made politely clear you are not going to give them any, are stepping over a line. I am very glad that we now have a legal recourse when they do so.

2 Responses to “Begging for Change”

  1. yeah, and after that run-in where a close-proximity beggar lifted my cellphone, i welcome the fact that it’s recognized as a harmful practice.

    i still think i should’ve broken his fingers. and i still think that i wouldn’t want to touch him without handy disinfectant. and i’m still glad that i’m observant enough to detect that sort of thing; most people wouldn’t have noticed… good on the by-laws!

  2. This is the sort of thing I was thinking of when I blogged about political correctness. Some people think they have to protect their special interest group no matter what or they’ll be crushed forever. That’s just stupid – if you can’t be realistic people won’t take you seriously.

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