18 July 2019
On this Mandela Day, Madiba’s legacy should once again inspire South Africans to work tirelessly towards ensuring the dignity of all people regarding of race, class, or gender orientation. It also compels us to constantly ask whether our actions as individuals or institutions in a democratic South Africa continues to measure up against this ideal. If they do not, it is our duty to hold each to account.
The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) believes that, if accurate, recent reports of punitive financial action against homeless people in the City of Cape Town do not measure up to these standards. Imposing fines on people merely for the predicament that they find themselves in, amounts to the criminalisation of poverty – a condition that, according to a 2017 Statistics South Africa report, the majority of South Africans (55% ) find themselves in. The IJR respects the city’s authority to legislate in ways that are in the best interest of all its inhabitants. If the impact of such legislation, however, violates the humanity of some, they must be challenged and replaced by ones that are humane to all, particularly those that can least fend for themselves. We believe that the mentioned by-laws are a case in point.
The Institute therefore calls on the city to repeal these laws and substitute them with measures that do not benefit some at the expense of others. As an active participant in the building of free, democratic and inclusive societies across Africa, we stand ready in our home city to support the City of Cape Town in its search for solutions that speak of the example of our former president.
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