Released: February 2020
Pietermaritzburg Agency of Community Social Action (PACSA) is an organization that advocates for and supports marginalized people in uMgungundlovu area. The January 2020 article published by the Witness, citing the Msunduzi Municipal Notice No. 89 of 2012 General Bylaws, where Bylaw 13 prohibits begging for money, is criminalizing the assisting people who make their livelihood from the streets. We reject the ongoing marginalization of vulnerable members of our community and even labelling them “beggars”, this goes against our call for justice and equity and equality. Labelling fellow citizens as “beggars” by an arm of state that is supposed to defend equality and justice is questionable and deeply troubling. We further believe that these bylaws criminalize the poor, whilst not addressing the underlying issues that result in the poor, mainly young people, resorting to being on the streets, and seeking any help from passers-by. We know and believe that there are real and fundamental socio-economic reasons that uMsunduzi Municipality needs to address, such as youth unemployment, limited recreational facilities, increasing number of drug dealers and drug pushers, fueled by politicians and police complacency and corroboration with criminals.
As an organisation that has fought for the rights of people in the uMgungundlovu and KZN Midlands area since 1979, we cannot turn a blind eye when such a miscarriage of justice is perpetuated by the uMsunduzi Municipality. In reality, it is uMsunduzi Municipality, uMgungundlovu District Municipality and KZN Provincial government whose administration should be criminalized for failing the poor. The South African Bill of Rights, section 26 stipulates that everyone (including people you call beggars) the right to adequate housing. Section 26.3, states that “no legislation may permit arbitrary evictions” As such, the demolition of Ematsheni beer hall, a place that had been a home for many young addicted drug users, without providing alternative accommodation or shelter by uMsunduzi Municipality, was in violation of this provision. Therefore the Municipality should be held accountable for failing to protect the rights of the youth on the street.
We will continue to walk with poor members of our society who are forced into braving the indignity of begging and harsh weather conditions, so that they can earn a pittance that will help them survive the harsh realities of their everyday life. For us, this remains a struggle that we need to fight against, together with the citizens of the city, and not respond harshly on fellow human beings. We need to protect their dignity, after all we are ALL God’s creation, so who are we to judge other people’s circumstances? Citizens, instead need to take a different direction by showing and offering love instead of supporting oppressive bylaws that criminalise their way of making a living. PACSA remains unapologetic about supporting those individuals that feel like the system is against them. We will not and we will never keep quiet when we see the injustice happening in the society.
As the community and citizens, we are our brother’s keepers, we need to do all in our power to look after and advocate for those who are less fortunate than we are.