Cape Town 'wages war against sex workers'

THE City of Cape Town is involved in a covert operation with a New York-based street patrol group to promote "aggressive community action" against sex workers by publicly labelling them as Aids carriers.

Sowetan is in possession of a confidential City of Cape Town and International Alliance of Guardian Angels document entitled "Stopping Prostitutes".

The document urges neighbourhood watch members to post signs in busy sex work streets "warning about the dangers of Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases". It also encourages people to wage war against prostitution.

In a section entitled "strategies and tactics" it says "driving prostitutes out of a neighbourhood permanently requires more than an occasional police raid". The document also urges the neighbourhood watch to follow sex workers and their clients around and take pictures of them.

The document states that it is "issued only to those members requiring it in the execution of their official duties. Any person finding this document is requested to hand it in at the nearest metro police or law enforcement office".

When contacted by Sowetan, the city distanced itself from the covert operation. Though the document bears its logo, Cape Town manager for strategic and operational support, safety and security Anton Visser said the manual had not been adopted as official policy but remained "work in progress".

People Opposing Women Abuse advocacy and legal manager Wendy Isaack said the initiative would encourage vigilantism, undermine the rule of law and perpetuate the victimisation of sex workers in Cape Town and other areas.