Good samaritan’s car torched amid homeless feeding scheme row
A Mouille Point resident believes a row on a community group led to the incident, but the forum's administrators deny that they are to blame.
A Cape Town man who was remanded for trying to feed the homeless people living on the streets around his home in Mouille Point, on the Western Cape’s Atlantic Seaboard, was targeted in the early hours of Wednesday 6 May by arsonists who torched his car.
Peter Wagenaar, was warned by officers that his attempts to perform a good deed were not in line with Disaster Management Act laws and that he should rather direct his good will to NGOs who were properly equipped to assist the homeless community.
Wagenaar believes that the attack on his Mini Cooper was the result of bad blood that has boiled over between himself and members of a community Facebook group over his efforts to feed the homeless.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said that a case of malicious damage to property had been opened, but that no arrests had been made thus far.
Earlier on Wednesday, Wagenaar was reported to have suggested that the incident was orchestrated by sinister forces within the Sea Point Community Facebook group, with members trying to put a stop to his efforts as a result of the influx of homeless people congregating outside his residence each day.
“We feed homeless people and there are a handful of people not happy with it and they have rallied (other) people,” Wagenaar said in a story published by IOL.
“Two Fridays ago, the police asked me for my permit. We had a valid permit in place and then last night at about 3:40 am I saw my car was set alight and was burnt to the ground,” he said.
He added that over the past few weeks he had received complaints from residents who were opposed to him feeding the homeless, with one member of the group coming under immense scrutiny for publishing Wagenaar’s name, phone number and residential address on the forum to “name and shame” him.
“I believe it is someone who is so toxic who wants to deter me. I am at peace. We have 200-300 supporters. There are a handful of people who have been rallying against us,” he said.
The South African was unable to reach Wagenaar on Wednesday and will continue to try and make contact with him.
Named and shamed
Contrary to Wagenaar’s theory on what inspired the incident, local business owner and group administrator Paul Jacobson, who posted Wagenaar’s details, told The South African that such an attack was unlikely to have spurred from remarks made on the group.
“When we find people who park in disabled bays or drive up one ways, taxis going through traffic lights, we are asked to highlight people so that they don’t do it again,” he said.
“We believe that his actions were incredibly detrimental and we felt comfortable sharing his information after he publicly spoke on the radio.”
“I’m not entirely sure what the legal right is. I challenged him that if he wants to take me to court on it, he can do so. I’m prepared to defend myself in court to save lives. He ignored warnings from law enforcement and residents.”
Prior to the incident, Jacobson had commended the officer who gave Wagenaar a warning in a post on the Facebook group.
“Kudos to him for the the manner in which he deals with this Mouille Point delinquent. It is abominable behaviour on the part of the resident who has the cheek to argue over his blatant transgression during lockdown,” he wrote on 1 May.
“This enforcement of the law makes one feel proud of SAPS Sea Point.”
Messaging has since been shut down on the group.
NGOs better positioned to assist
Jacobson said that as kind-hearted as Wagenaar’s intentions may be, he was doing more harm than good by providing hand-outs to the homeless in Sea Point.
“The City of Cape Town have directed that havens, night shelters and those dealing with the destitute promote the idea of dealing with the homeless with dignity rather than hand-outs.”
“Rather we ask our people to be compassionate and generous by steering them towards NGOs.”
“Peter’s actions are dangerous in that he’s affecting hundreds of people who have gravitated to Mouille Point who may have considered going to their families or shelters.”
Ward Councillor Nicola Jowel said that vigilanteism would not be tolerated if indeed it was the case.
“I’m shocked and appalled and I hope the police will follow through on this. A number of people have been unhappy and some have welcomed his efforts. But the fact remains that the person responsible for this must face the might of the law.”