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‘David versus Goliath’: Being homeless in the City of Cape Town | Homelessness



Cape Town, South Africa – Carin Gelderbloem was woken in the early hours by a large rock crashing down on her tent. A group of high school students had been drinking all day in Company’s Garden, just down the road from the South African Parliament.

They were now terrorising its homeless.

When Gelderbloem’s boyfriend, Rameez Kemp, went outside to protest, he was beaten and stabbed repeatedly. Colon hanging out, he managed to stagger to the park entrance. Having lost a lot of blood, he was eventually taken by ambulance to Somerset Hospital two hours later, within an inch of his life.

When she reported the incident at the Cape Town Central police station, Gelderbloem says officials told her it was her boyfriend’s fault for choosing to sleep rough in the first place. This was October 2018 – one of her first encounters with the city’s police.

“When you stand up to law enforcement, you are David and they are Goliath,” she said. “They told us we don’t have any rights.”

Over the phone, Andre Trout, a spokesperson for the South African Police Service in Cape Town, declined to provide Al Jazeera with a comment on the alleged incident. “If she was turned away, she must lodge an official complaint with police management. We don’t take this kind of thing lightly,” he said.

Homeless residents of Cape Town report having ID documents, HIV medication and tents confiscated by the city’s law enforcement [Sindile Sydwell Kamlana/Al Jazeera]

During her nine years on and off the street, Gelderbloem, 51, alleges that law enforcement officers confiscated clothes, sleeping bags, dentures and even the beads that she used to make and sell jewellery. On multiple occasions, in the dead of night, she says city authorities would rip away the cardboard and plastic sheeting that she used to shelter from the elements.

Gelderbloem says such incidents were often accompanied by torrents of verbal abuse. “They have never spoken to me like a decent human being,” she said. “I ask them, ‘Do you speak to your mother like that?’ Don’t think that this can never happen to you. Homelessness can happen to anybody in the blink of an eye.”

Archaic bylaws, rooted in colonial-era vagrancy and “pass laws” exported by the Dutch and British to subjugate the Indigenous population, essentially criminalise homelessness in municipalities throughout South Africa. In Cape Town, those lying down, sitting or standing in public spaces have been fined up to 2,000 South African rands ($146). While these bylaws technically apply to everyone, they disproportionately affect the homeless who often have nowhere else to go. An amendment to the bylaws, currently under public review, would allow law enforcement to physically remove homeless people from an area and arrest them on the spot if they refuse an offer of alternative shelter and seize tents.

In the United Kingdom, MPs are calling for the government to repeal the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping. In Cape Town, Gelderbloem and 10 other homeless Capetonians are calling for an overhaul of their own.

In March, they lodged two applications – one at the Western Cape High Court and another at the Equality Court – to challenge the constitutionality and alleged discriminatory effect of the bylaws. The applicants have all been fined for contravening these laws and variously testify in their applications and to Al Jazeera that they have had ID documents, blankets and other personal possessions confiscated by law enforcement. Since launching the case, the lawyer representing the applicants said one of them alleged they have had HIV medicine taken away by law enforcement during a recent raid on Hope Street.

The applicants want the bylaws to be scrapped and are demanding constitutional damages of 5,000 rands ($360) each, as well as a formal apology from the city authorities.

Homeless residents of Cape Town say that law enforcement agencies regularly rip plastic sheeting from their tents, exposing them to the harsh winter elements [Sindile Sydwell Kamlana/Al Jazeera]

Last week, the City of Cape Town issued a press release shared on Facebook by multiple city councillors from the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition group which controls the Western Cape province, declaring that it was preparing to oppose the challenge to the bylaws.

“Law Enforcement officers are duty-bound to apply the law equally, and to respond to the hundreds of complaints from residents each month about anti-social behavior, breaking of by-laws, and crime committed by some people living on the street,” it noted.

“When all offers of social assistance are rejected, only then does the City issue compliance notices and fines – the key legal mechanisms available to enforce by-laws.”

City councillors from the Democratic Alliance also sent out a mass email, with a template form for sending in complaints about the homeless in an effort to build its legal case.

Jonty Cogger, a lawyer for Ndifuna Ukwazi, the activist organisation representing the homeless applicants, said the City’s response was “despicable” and “tantamount to inciting hatred towards homeless people”.

“Soliciting complaints from ratepayers, residents and businesses – people with privilege – is a dangerous and divisive legal strategy that will only exacerbate street people’s vulnerability and marginalisation in society,” he added.

Gelderbloem, right, and her boyfriend, Rameez Kemp [Sindile Sydwell Kamlana/Al Jazeera]

In 2019, there were 4,862 homeless people living in Cape Town, according to figures by the Western Cape provincial government.

A more recent study released in November 2020 by three non-profit organisations, U-Turn, Khulisa Streetscapes and MES, claimed that the real number is in excess of 14,000.

JP Smith, the city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said there had likely been some “double counting” because multiple organisations were involved in compiling the data. He conceded though that the situation had been “dramatically aggravated”, following the country’s first coronavirus lockdown last year. The NGO survey drew mainly on data from before the first lockdown.

The three groups also estimated that the City of Cape Town spends more than 335.2 million rands ($24.4m) on law enforcement and punitive measures against the homeless – and just 121.9 million rands ($8.9m) on social development programmes.

“That is absolute nonsense and a grotesque misrepresentation of the figures,” said Smith, who among other things accuses the authors of treating law enforcement budgets as if they were used exclusively to target the homeless. In reality, these calculations of the money spent on policing the city’s homeless were made based on a survey of 350 homeless people, government reports, and interviews with officials.

Smith added that Cape Town had the most liberal policy towards the homeless of any city in South Africa and that similar bylaws exist all over the world.

For Gelderbloem though, this is inconsequential. “We must win this case. The City must realise that homeless people are people,” she said.

It could be months before a ruling is delivered.

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The scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that refused to bow to Beijing | Freedom of the Press News




Hong Kong, China – The last edition of the Apple Daily, the small scrappy Hong Kong tabloid that emerged as a champion of democracy and outspoken critic of China, has rolled off the presses, four days after the newspaper celebrated its 26th anniversary.

The paper had been raided by police twice during the past 10 months on suspicion of violating the National Security Law that was imposed by Beijing almost a year ago. Since the first raid last August, founder Jimmy Lai, 73, has been in jail awaiting trial under the law.

Last week’s raid saw five top executives, including its chief editor, arrested for alleged security offences as 500 police officers swooped in on Apple’s headquarters, with another staffer – the head editorial writer – apprehended on Wednesday morning.

The final nail in the coffin, however, was Hong Kong authorities’ freeze on the bank accounts of the media group that owns the paper. The move made it impossible for the paper to pay its staff and vendors, even as readers snapped up copies to show their support.

The decision was based on “employee safety and manpower considerations”, Apple Daily said as it announced its closure on Wednesday.
“Here we say goodbye. Take care of yourselves.”

Staff members of Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital clap out the final edition of a paper that began publishing in 1995 and became a thorn in Beijing’s side [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” framework meant to guarantee rights and liberties absent in the mainland. For most of the past 20 years, the territory has remained a bastion of press freedom in a country where media is muzzled.

“The demise of Apple Daily negates ‘one country, two systems’ and sets the stage for ‘one country, one system,’” said Willy Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics and a veteran newspaper editor.

Bold, brash

Founded just two years before the handover, Apple Daily was at once a gamble and a leap of faith.

“The paper wanted to have some impact not just on Hong Kong but also to support the liberalisation of China,” Lam told Al Jazeera. “But as China has become less open to Western values, the paper has focused on defending Hong Kong values and holding Beijing to account.”

In its inaugural editorial, Apple Daily said it aimed to be a paper for the Hong Kong people.

Lai, its founder and funder, a devout Catholic who had made a fortune in the fashion business, named the paper after the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament. Its rhyming couplet jingle – “An Apple a day, no liars can hold sway” – caught the attention of Hong Kong readers used to more staid offerings.

It was loud. It was bold, It was flashy.

The paper grabbed attention when it splashed a surreptitiously shot photo of Deng Xiaoping – China’s then-paramount leader died in February at the age of 92 – on his deathbed on the front page.

Brashness was its selling point.

Its reporters frequently skewered public officials and needled the comfortable.

“It speaks truth to power and finds a way to do profitably,” said Lokman Tsui, assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai, standing by one of the printing presses in 2009, created a hugely popular paper that supported democracy, was unafraid to speak truth to power and critical of the Communist Party in Beijing [File: Alex Hofford/EPA]
Apple Daily’s founder and funder, Jimmy Lai, was arrested in August under the national security law and the paper’s headquarters raided. He has now been jailed [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The paper catered to high brow and low. Colourful spreads of scantily-clad female models appeared in the same section of the paper as erudite columns featuring quotes in Latin and Classical Chinese. With a couple of exceptions, its ranks of columnists were the who’s who of the territory’s pro-democracy circle.

Giving people what they want

Launched at the dawn of the internet age, the daily was quick to adapt to the digital world. Its website pioneered animated news – a mix of stills, short clips and clever graphics with narration dripping with sour sarcasm. Its lifestyle channel on YouTube built a fervent following.

A decade in, the paper’s circulation peaked at 500,000 in a city of approximately six million people with a dozen dailies.

Apple Daily’s brand of advocacy journalism would soon make the paper a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party. But to Lai, a rags-to-riches maverick millionaire now named Public Enemy No. 1 by Beijing, it was all about giving his customers what they would buy, even down to protest poster inserts.

In the summer of 2019, amid popular opposition to legislation that would send Hong Kong residents for trial in mainland China, the paper shorthanded “extradition to China” into the homophonic colloquial Cantonese expression of seeing someone to the grave. The expression immediately caught on and became a rallying cry in the protest movement.

“At times, we might have gone overboard but everything we did fell within the bounds of the law,” said Robert Chan, 45, who has covered mainland China for the paper for the past three years.

That is until the passage of the security law, which punishes what the authorities deem subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life sentences.

Prosecutors have used Lai’s frequent meetings with US officials in recent years, from the then-vice president on down, as “evidence” of his alleged “collusion with foreign powers”.

Staff from Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital work on the final edition of their newspaper on June 23. In its first-ever editorial, the paper said it wanted to be a publication of the Hong Kong people. It printed a million copies of its final edition [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Early last month, rumours started to circulate that Beijing wanted to see the paper be shuttered in time for the Communist Party’s centenary celebrations on July 1.

Technology reporter for a decade, Alex Tang, 37, said like most of his colleagues he had become conditioned to taking unsubstantiated gossip with a grain of salt – until the second raid and the company asset freeze.

During the past few days, some of the 800 reporters at the paper were frustrated by the lack of a definitive answer on the last publishing date and severance.

“Management said they’d hang on till the bitter end, and they’ve kept their word,” said Tang. “The company has done its best.”

Apple Daily will live on as a website on the self-governing island of Taiwan, where it ceased paper publication last month.

But in Hong Kong, China news reporter Chan said he will mourn the loss of far more than his livelihood.

“With the paper gone, so would the values it represents: pursuit of freedom and democracy,” he said.

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‘Real and present danger’: Sydney imposes new COVID curbs | Coronavirus pandemic News




Restrictions cover an estimated five million people after Delta variant-linked cases, as neighbouring New Zealand raises alert level.

People in Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, have been ordered not to leave the metropolitan area, as authorities scramble to contain a number of new coronavirus cases of the Delta variant – a development that has prompted neighbouring New Zealand to raise its alert level following possible exposure from a tourist from Australia.

New South Wales (NSW) State Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the stricter curbs – affecting about five million people who live and work in the city – on Wednesday.

“Clearly this is an evolving situation,” Berejiklian said at a news conference.

The new rules took effect at 4pm Sydney time (06:00 GMT) and will remain in force for a week.

“Given what has occurred the NSW government will be taking action today to limit the spread of what is a very contagious variant of COVID.”

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard described the situation as “a very real and present danger” for the city as a cluster first identified in the beach surburb of Bondi grew to 21 cases with eight confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Most of the newly confirmed cases were traced to a single event, where a mass gathering was held on Tuesday.

“This is a new and more dangerous version of the virus,” Hazzard said during the news conference.

The new restrictions include a limit on household visitors to five people, including children, Berejiklian said.

Mask wearing, which had already been reinstated on Friday, will be extended with people required to wear masks in all indoor settings outside the home and at organised outdoor events. The measures also include capacity limits on public transport and in gym classes, while singing at indoor venues, including places of worship, will not be allowed.

Authorities are also urging people to come forward for testing.

“If we adhere to the health orders today, we will have a good chance on getting on top of this outbreak,” Berejiklian told reporters.

New Zealand on alert


As of Wednesday, Australia had recorded more than 30,300 cases and 910 deaths.

The country has been among the world’s most successful in containing the pandemic, allowing it to reopen its border to New Zealand.

But the new cases are testing the travel bubble between the neighbours.

On Wednesday, New Zealand raised its pandemic alert level in Wellington to level two, which is one level short of a lockdown.

Earlier, an Australian tourist who visited the capital city over the weekend tested positive for COVID when they returned to Sydney.

“These are precautionary measures which will remain in place while we contact trace and test all of those we need to,” New Zealand’s COVID response minister Chris Hipkins said.

Under the elevated alert level, offices, schools and businesses are still allowed to open, but people are required to follow social distancing rules.

Gatherings of more than 100 people are banned, including weddings and other parties.

New Zealand has a population of five million people, and has recorded a total of 2,720 cases and 26 deaths. The country has posted a 98.2 percent recovery rate.

In Australia itself, Queensland and Victoria have both closed their borders to people from many parts of Sydney as a result of the new cases.

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River Nile dam: Egypt new African allies




Recent years have seen a dramatic re-engagement with Africa, especially the Nile Basin countries.

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