Cape Town – The office of the provincial Human Rights Commissioner has confirmed that it was investigating a complaint of an alleged assault and manhandling of a homeless man by Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) safety and security guards.
Ukubavimba Foundation activist Deon Carelse, who laid the complaint, said this was not a random incident but one of many in which homeless people sleeping on the streets of the CBD were subjected to abuse by the guards.
Carelse said the incident, which took place on the corner of Corporation and Darling streets, occurred while a group of more than six Law Enforcement officials stood on the other side of the street, watching.
“I called them to intervene, while two of them came to assist me and others remained on the spot watching. One CCID guard was on his radio then after also took part in manhandling the homeless guy.
“How come it is that the homeless people’s human rights can be violated by everyone that feels it is right to do so? It’s a sad day in our day and age where law enforcement agencies, who are supposed to protect and serve, expose themselves to this kind of brutality,” he said.
Magistrate Venice Burgins, who also witnessed the incident, said she was still baffled and traumatised.
“It’s a vile violation of human dignity rights and truly despicable to slap someone in front of others without just cause. This homeless man did nothing to be treated in such an inhumane manner, and leaves more questions than answers to the type of training these individuals undergo, as they target the most vulnerable, which is in contradiction of the Batho Pele principles which are entrenched from national to local government,” she said.
Burgins said those involved must be immediately suspended pending a full investigation of their conduct, as they have brought the safety and security cluster into disrepute.
Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen said he will meet with the CCID management, as he has raised similar issues with them in the past.
“It’s unfair that the homeless are being targeted. I understand that there are a number of issues with displaced people, but we will have to investigate the case, and if it is found that the person was assaulted, then that must go to the police for investigation,” Nissen said.
CCID chief executive Tasso Evangelinos said they had no knowledge of the incident.
Evangelinos said Carelse, who claims to have witnessed the incident, had not contacted the CCID and nor has the SA Human Rights Commission.
“The CCID takes allegations of misconduct by its public safety officers very seriously. The organisation has a strict code of conduct in place, and any officer found to be transgressing the code will face disciplinary action. We would like to request that Mr Carelse provide us with information to allow us to investigate the incident,” said Evangelinos.
The City’s spokesperson, Luthando Tyhalibongo, said the City had noted the complaint and would investigate.