On 22 April 2020, so-called “minor amendments” were proposed by the Democratic Alliance (DA)-led City of Cape Town. These new bylaw amendments can be read in detail on the City of Cape Town website, and are open for public comment. I implore every citizen to send their comments and raise the alarm on these new bylaw amendments, as, like most new policies, they are draconian, ill-advised, unenforceable, and open up huge opportunities for corrupt officials to harm innocents.
BusinessTech has a good article summarising the unnecessary and unwanted amendments.
The amendments deal fundamentally with enforcing compliance to prevent noise and public nuisances. Currently, it creates offences such as:
- “Intentionally blocking traffic;
- Using abusive or threatening language in public;
- Relieving themselves, spitting, or performing sexual acts in public;
- Being drunk or under the influence of drugs;
- Causing a disturbance by shouting, screaming or making any other loud or persistent noise or sound;
- Permitting noise from a private residence or business to be audible in a public place;
- Door-to-door collections;
- Trees on a property causing an interference or obstruction.”
Already some of these offences raise uncomfortable questions. Why should the state be able to govern door-to-door collections, and why is such an activity mentioned in the same breath as public sex acts?
Even with the other offences, which there may be room to argue that they are indeed offensive, why is it that we need the government to regulate social conduct so harshly?
When you use the law as a weapon against your neighbours instead of engaging with them, you create an unsociable and toxic society. At their best, these bylaws are passive aggressive attempts by busybodies who want to use the might of law enforcement to impose their nanny state ideology on the masses.
New Amendments Enforcement
But the brunt of these amendments isn’t in what they deem offensive. It’s how they plan to stop them.
We live in a country rife with blatant police corruption, brutality and law enforcement involvement in organised crime. Yet, the city run by the official opposition, who has criticised law enforcement so harshly in the past, wants to give corrupt cops and authority figures (like the 73,000 soldiers being deployed to police a virus, despite their failure to police gangsterism) even more power to violate people’s liberties and rights!
The notable changes in the new amendments are the following:
- “Instruction to leave the area – An authorised official may instruct a person who is in contravention of the by-law to leave and remain out of an area where a contravention taken place;
- Inspections – An authorised official may enter or inspect any premises or business where there are reasonable grounds for believing that a provision of this by-law has been contravened, or where there has been an allegation that a provision of this by-law has been contravened;
- Search and seizure – Without a warrant, an officer may stop, enter and search any vessel, vehicle, premises or person for a prima facie (at face value) offence in terms of this by-law occurring;
- Impounding – An officer may, without a warrant, seize and impound any property, including but not limited to, an item, goods, equipment, vessel or a vehicle which is concerned or is on reasonable grounds believed to be concerned with the commission of an offence in terms of this by-law. The city may sell, donate or dispose of the impounded item if it is forfeited by the court a person does not claim the item.”
Problems with the Initial Bylaw
Policing social conduct with regulation is a slippery slope that leads to toxic and unsociable societies. That is bad enough. But the individual offences themselves are particularly ludicrous, partly because they’re unenforceable, and partly because they violate our liberty.
Begging, for instance, is an apparent offence that some thoughtless people may support being banned. But thinking about it from a logical foundation, there is nothing inherently offensive about begging. There is definitely something tragic about it, but we shouldn’t be punishing tragedy.
Begging is a transaction between two individuals. The beggar has the right to solicit a person for money just as much as a charity does, or the DA themselves when they ask for your support. Why is it that the DA and African National Congress (ANC) can harass us by phone to ask for money, but someone by the traffic light cannot?
People may argue that beggars are often uncouth and an annoyance. But that doesn’t make begging itself an offence. So long as institutions and companies can solicit transactions, so should individuals down on their luck.
Another offence with unforeseen variables is public drunkenness. Sure, nobody wants to deal with a drunk in a park. But do not forget that streets are also public. And when an adult shambles out of a bar towards their Uber, they are technically drunk in public. Are cops going to arrest every bar patron to the extent that every local shebeen will have to become an overnight hotel?
Noise, the crux of the original bylaw, is also a sticky issue. Nobody wants to be kept awake at night by a loud party. But the wording itself is extremely draconian. To allow noise from a private property to be audible on a public property is technically illegal. So, if your phone rings while you are stepping out of your property, and someone hears it on the street, you can get punished.
I could go on and on about the rest of the apparent offences and their ludicrous implications. Some may say that I’m overreacting about these implications. But give an angry cop an excuse to take out his anger and then you get a tragedy.
Problems with Bylaw Enforcement
The real problem in these regulations is the advanced powers that the DA-led City of Cape Town wants to give to the so-called authorised officials (presumably: law enforcement, soldiers and city officials).
We already fear the sociopaths with badges and guns who demand bribes for fake infractions and respond to apparent disrespect with brutality. Now the City wants to give them the right to order anyone to leave an area, to inspect any premises without a warrant, to seize private property without a warrant and to impound said property on merely a suspicion.
What happened to the rule of law? To justice? To due process?
Warrants aren’t a hurdle invented to give law enforcement a hard time to catch criminals. They are meant to protect private citizens from abuses of power. They are meant to stop cops from stealing your car on mere suspicion that you may be in contravention of social purity.
We already hear about home invaders disguised as law enforcement. At least we could just reject fake cops at the door by asking for a warrant. Now we may be breaking the law by rationally refusing to let men with guns and batons into our home.
But it isn’t the home invaders I’m scared of. I’m scared of authority figures hyped up on adrenaline and greed coming into my home and seizing my property because they heard my TV from the street. It wouldn’t matter that I didn’t have a TV. The law doesn’t matter to those who believe they’re above it.
These bylaw amendments are just additional icing on the cake of an authoritarian DA playing the ANC’s game of social engineering and policing public conduct.
At best, the amendments, if passed, will not be enforced by our already incompetent and overstretched police force. At worst, police will use the new regulations to enrich themselves and brutalise citizens with increased impunity.
Please ensure that you comment on these amendments, and propose that the bylaw itself be scrapped completely. We have lost too many freedoms already to the national government to allow the so-called official opposition to take more.
We have to hold them accountable. Let your voice be heard. And if they don’t mend their ways, punish them at the ballot box. It’s the only language they understand.