In a bid to address a persistent issue, Newcastle Municipality arrested 11 beggars in July 2023, briefly providing relief to the city’s busy intersections. However, this respite proved short lived as the beggars returned to their usual spots within a short period of time.
The beggars’ issue has long troubled the Newcastle community, prompting ongoing discussions about potential solutions.
With their return, numerous Newcastillians were left wondering about the effectiveness of the initiative, leading to various residents contacting Newcastillian News for further insight into the matter.
A source within the local Traffic Department shed light on the legal aspect of the situation. “The Municipality is currently awaiting payment of fines or court appearances for the arrested beggars”. However, the source stated that these people would more than likely not appear in court nor pay their fines. “This will then result in the eleven beggars being rearrested.”
With regard to their incarceration, the source explained, “The ultimate decision on potential imprisonment lies with the Newcastle Magistrate.”
But, when looking at why they continue to return to the various traffic lights across the city, residents are to blame.
Regardless of the continuous plea for residents to stop supporting them, the community continues to supply them with food, clothes, and money, thereby creating a lucrative endeavour for these people. This is baring in mind, as pointed out by legal authorities on numerous occasions, they are all on drugs and beg to support their addiction.
Initially, when the beggars were arrested in July 2023, Newcastle Municipality’s Cllr Bebsie Cronje explained that she had received multiple complaints about them.
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However, the efforts to alleviate the issue were met with complications. Despite the Newcastle Municipality’s attempt to address the situation, Cllr Cronje faced toxic resistance from several residents who felt they should be left alone.
While Newcastle residents were initially up in arms about the beggars, the moment the Newcastle Municipality did do something, numerous people felt it was their right to verbally attack the municipality and councillors for removing the beggars.
Cllr Cronje explained that she was verbally bombarded by some residents, with people feeling that it was their right to even swear at her, calling her heartless, a b*tch and asking how she would feel if she lived on the streets and was treated like this.
“People said the Newcastle Municipality should rather focus on potholes and burst pipes than focus on the beggars.”
Cllr Cronje further highlighted these beggars were a safety risk, and if they were knocked down and died, the motorist would be charged for the death. “Even if the beggar should not be standing, or kneeling as some do, in the streets. Then there is the crime factor.”
Imran Ghafoor, a member of the Newcastle Crime Fighter Task Team, delved into the deeper issues associated with beggars.
“Many of these beggars use drugs and commit theft, as well as smash and grabs. Also, many of these people have been offered jobs by businesspeople in town, and the beggars turned the offers down, because they earn more on the streets.”
Ghafoor echoed Cllr Cronje’s concerns about road safety and emphasised the role of beggars in obstructing traffic flow and contributing to accidents.
“They are obstructing the road and there have been accidents in the recent past where beggars were knocked down. Last year, one beggar was knocked down and died, and the driver was charged,” he emphasised.
In a previous report in May 2023, the Newcastle Municipality’s Communications Unit explained the responsibility to enforce the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996, which prohibits pedestrians from engaging in dangerous behaviour.
The actions taken by the Traffic Services Department to address such violations justified the removal of beggars in July 2023.
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As the Newcastle Municipality’s traffic officers await further developments in court proceedings, and considering the challenges faced by Cllr Cronje and the backlash from the community, the ongoing presence of beggars now rests on the shoulders of Newcastle’s residents who support them at the various intersections.
Unfortunately, with numerous residents attacking the removal of these people, some rooting for it, and others using anything to complain about potholes, this matter has a long way to go.
What is your take on this? Where do you fall on them staying or going? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below.