The vehicle of a man who was recently told off by the police in a viral video for giving food to the homeless in Cape Town’s trendy Mouille Point was set ablaze on Wednesday morning.
All that remained of the Mini Cooper was charred metal and strands of copper wires as well as burnt apples and documents in the boot.
Two pairs of melted running shoes lay scattered behind the vehicle, and a faint tinge of burnt vinyl mingled with the sea air.
“My wife woke me up to say there was a fire out here,” said a resident of one of the upmarket apartment buildings where everybody has a sweeping view of the Atlantic Seaboard.
This shocking turn of events comes after a heated spell of arguing on Facebook about feeding the homeless in the area.
Peter Wagenaar is the man who was filmed being told by a police officer he could not distribute food directly to the homeless at his block of flats. He was told to give it to a shelter to distribute.
According to Covid-19 lockdown regulations, the homeless were supposed to have been accommodated in shelters, among them a tent city in Strandfontein.
However, a large numbers of people are still sleeping along the promenade on the fake grass or on the benches, and scratching in bins for something to eat.
According to Sea Point resident Shelley Finch, two camps fought on Facebook: one thinks individuals can give directly to the homeless, while the other thinks it should be distributed through a shelter.
Finch said those who gave directly to the homeless were harassed by those who think it was wrong.
She added one resident, Paul Jacobson, was of the view Wagenaar was breaking the law by giving the homeless food directly, and published his address and vehicle registration number on Facebook.
To her shock, Wagenaar’s car was torched.
“It’s crazy!” said Finch.
Jacobson said he had nothing to do with what had happened to Wagenaar’s vehicle, although admitted to “perhaps mistakenly” publishing his address and registration number.
He said he did this in the same vein when people called out others who parked in a disabled parking spot.
Jacobson added he was in the “responsible giving” camp which felt food and assistance should be distributed to the homeless through shelters, for their own dignity.
He said although he felt strongly about this, he would never torch somebody’s car over it, and does not think any “vigilante” in Sea Point or Mouille Point would do so either, adding media reports had noted recently gangsters were handing out food parcels.
Jacobson suspects Wagenaar might have unwittingly stepped on somebody’s territory by building relationships with the homeless.
According to information he had received from a local security company, a motorbike was seen in the area and something was thrown at the vehicle before it burst into flames.
“Peter was probably occupying turf whether he knew it or not,” said Jacobson, a businessperson in the area.
Comment from Wagenaar was not immediately available, but he told the Cape Argus a handful of people were not happy with him for feeding the homeless.
He told the publication they had a valid permit in place, and then at about 03.40am he saw his car was set alight and was burnt to the ground.
He believed it was someone who was so toxic, they wanted to deter him.
Ward councillor Nicola Jowell noted on the Sea Point City Improvement District Facebook page that with the relocation of about 200 homeless people to the Strandfontein shelter, a new group of people moved to Sea Point from places like Hanover Park and Netreg in search of food.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said an arson investigation was opened, adding no arrests have been made.