Love wins in Sea Point as torched Mini starts an incredible initiatives!
Photo Cred: Shelley Finch

In what will be remembered as one of the most bizarre South African lockdown stories, a Sea Point resident – whose Mini was burnt to the ground for feeding homeless people – has unveiled a new powerful project filled with hope and love.


Cape Town, South Africa (16 November 2020) – When the Mini Cooper owned by Peter and Lesley Wagenaar was set on fire in the early morning hours of 6 May 2020, little did those who sparked this know that their ‘victims’ would turn this act of intimidation and violence, into a powerful symbol of love, tolerance and community cooperation.

The torching of the car was apparently sparked by angry residents who were unhappy that the Wagenaars had started handing out food to the homeless in front of their apartment building.

In what will be remembered as totally absurd Government regulations, South Africans were not allowed to feed homeless people during the lockdown. Before the incident, a video went viral where a police officer wanted to arrest and fine Wagenaar for feeding homeless people.

“You are not allowed to feed homeless people during the lockdown, this is prohibited and not an essential service.”

Watch the video here:

Times Live reported that when Wagenaar started handing out food in front of his apartment building, an Atlantic Seaboard Action Group Facebook group administrator – Paul Jacobson – accused him of “causing the premature deaths of many street people” by giving them food.

“[Wagenaar’s] actions go against all the directives of responsible giving and also encourages others to breach isolation and lockdown. We have a real problem with this idiot.”

Jacobson also posted Wagenaar’s address and ID number, as well as photographs of his car, and in another post he defended this move, saying: “If there was a situation that deserved name and shame it was this.”

The very next day Wagenaar woke up and his car had been set alight during the night.

Love wins in Sea Point as torched Mini starts an incredible initiative!
Photo Cred: Shelley Finch

Jacobson said he believed the arson attack was the result of a gang turf war.

“What we do know is it looks like a gang-related issue, at 3 o’clock in the morning a motorbike drove up, threw a bomb in there and left,” said Jacobson. 

Gang bosses had started handing out food parcels in Sea Point, and it was “very likely” Wagenaar’s actions had “upset some gangsters operating in that area and who utilise street people to do their business”.

But yesterday the Wagenaars, along with members of the Gugulethu-Seaboard CAN, Souper Troopers, Streetscapes and Ladles of Love, unveiled the newly repainted and renamed “Mini Meltdown” at a local community market held on the Sea Point Promenade.

The shell of the burnt-out Mini was transformed into a mobile artwork by artist Alicia McFadzean, aka Cheeky Observer, and will be used as a fund-raising vehicle to raise money for more social workers to assist the Atlantic Seaboard’s homeless community as well as various other projects that are easing the plight of the poor and the destitute.

“Since the morning our car was set alight, we prepared just over 18 000 home-cooked meals – served with love and dignity – over 9 weeks, from Level 5 to Level 3 of Lockdown. We got to meet the most amazing homeless people who come from all walks of life and somehow landed up on the streets through various circumstances. Despite being homeless, the cruelty of which was exacerbated by the Lockdown, they always arrived with a smile on their faces and were extremely grateful for the service that we provided during this dire time. In return, we were blessed with more than 18 000 smiles,” says Peter Wagenaar.

The person featured on the bonnet of the new artwork is particularly significant. Aunty Tietie, as she is affectionately known, is originally from Malawi and was disowned and physically threatened by her local community when she declared her desire to transition to life as a woman. Fearing for her safety, she fled to South Africa and found herself homeless and living on the streets of Cape Town. Thanks to the support from Streetscapes, a local NGO working with those who find themselves homeless, Aunty Tietie now has stable employment and a roof over her head.

Love wins in Sea Point as torched Mini starts an incredible initiative!
Photo Cred: Shelley Finch
Love wins in Sea Point as torched Mini starts an incredible initiative!
Photo Cred: Shelley Finch

Her face is a reminder that people find themselves living on the streets for many reasons, including escaping sexual and physical abuse at home, being disowned by their families because of their sexual orientation or identity and chronic/long-term illness resulting in the loss of their job and income. Not all members of homeless communities are drug addicts or alcoholics, and many cannot return to their former homes.

Attendees at the unveiling ceremony also enjoyed a Mini Market, which featured produce from Gugulethu entrepreneurs including freshly harvested vegetables and organic honey from the Gugulethu Urban Farmers Initiative, baked goods from Thembile’s Bakery and Kumba Cookies and Cakes, Christmas decorations and coffee beans from Souper Troopers, branded t-shirts and caps from Ladles of Love and Mini-Meltdown as well as plants and pre-loved books, jewellery and clothing.

Anyone wishing to support the ongoing work of Mini Meltdown, the Gugulethu-Seaboard CAN and Souper Troopers, can make a donation using Snapscan or EFT by clicking here.

Sources: Shelley Finch | Mini Meltdown | Souper Troopers | Gugulethu-Seaboard CAN
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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