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New City by-law takes the fun out of 'begging' for news

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New City by-law takes the fun out of 'begging' for news

by Nurene Jassiem
30 Jun 2006
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

As a journalist I spend most of my time either on the road gathering news and information or behind my desk typing up stories. On the odd occasion when I have the time I surf the internet in search of interesting news stories.


So imagine my surprise - or rather mock horror - when I came across a new set of by-laws the other day that's set to crack down on beggars. Its name: the By-Law Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Nuisances 2006.

Now according to the draft of this by-law from the City of Cape Town "continuing to beg from a person or closely follow a person after the person has given a negative response to such begging" will be outlawed. In addition to this an offender could be fined or imprisoned for a period not exceeding six months.

For the record, I'm not a beggar, even though I loaf the odd sweet or tea-bag from my colleagues now and then. I do however often find myself "begging" people for interviews - especially when doing a vox. Often when I initially approach people they say no, then I use my charm (or powers of persuasion) to convince them to speak to me. So, if I understand this new law correctly, I can now be arrested for this? Woe is me!

Another section of the by-law outlaws "following someone in a manner that influences reasonable fear for bodily harm". So for the record, if I walk up to you and ask for comment on any given issue, I do not intend to cause you any harm. In light of this by-law I have to humbly request the public not to have me arrested or call security when I approach you, I just want your comment and nothing more. Scouts honour, I promise!

I'm not sure how many of you go out at night and sometimes find the need to take a short nap in your car before continuing the party.

I know when I was younger, my parents and I went to family functions and they usually ended up staying for a seeming eternity. Thus, I often asked my dad for the car keys and went to catch "40 winks" in the back of the vehicle. Alas! This new by-law also outlaws sleeping in a vehicle in any public space "except in a dire emergency". I surely hope that my need for sleep would classify as a "dire emergency". Imagine the dozing off and just as LL Cool J is about to propose to you (I'm a hip-hop fan with a vivid imagination), you hear a police siren and wake up to a torch light flashing in your eyes!
Not only will your dreams be shattered (albeit a fantasy), but you may even be arrested (I know I cant afford fines, maybe some of you can).

On a serious note though. I understand some of the reasoning behind this by-law and that beggars often make a nuisance of themselves. But my request to the public is to please consider carefully the weight of their actions when they try to have this by-law enforced.

Consider whether not wanting to give a kid 50c is worth having him imprisoned - my logic tells me that if he's asking you for money he wont be able to pay a fine. Laws are meant to be taken seriously but compassion for those less fortunate than yourself is also a common courtesy.

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