Despite promises, city has no by-laws

2009-10-21 00:00

DESPITE many promises to regulate fireworks, there are still no municipal by-laws in place to control their use in the Msunduzi Municipality.

In 2008, municipal spokeswoman Ntobeko Ngcobo was quoted in The Witness as saying that the by-laws would be implemented early this year once they had been approved by council, but this has still not happened.

The season of fireworks started with Diwali at the weekend and will soon be followed by Guy Fawkes and New Year celebrations, but the municipality still relies on the Explosives Act for the control of the use of fireworks.

The Witness has published stories about the regulation of fireworks since 2004. Issues in contention have been the amount of stock that dealers are allowed to hold in their shops and the increasing number of domestic animals killed on the roads during Guy Fawkes and Diwali.

SPCA spokeswoman Maureen Vida said yesterday the organisation has heard hollow promises from council about the fireworks by-laws issue for many years now.

She said a petition asking for better control of fireworks and bearing thousands of signatures from all the city’s communities was handed to Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo when she was still the deputy mayor.

“She promised then that the by-laws would be amended.”

Vida said she was later shown a draft of the new by-laws, which she described as “adequate”.

“But since then everything has fizzled out.” Vida said that at the beginning of 2008, Mark Steele, then a Democratic Alliance Msunduzi councillor, championed the matter and pushed to get the by-laws passed, but the process had “got to a certain stage and then fizzled out”.

Steele, now an MP, confirmed that when he was on the by-laws subcommittee, a by-law regulating fireworks was drawn up. The draft regulation was sent to the committee whose unit has to enforce the regulation. In the case of fireworks, it is the Community Services and Social Equity Committee. Steele said that in his experience it is at the committee level that the draft by-laws get stuck because the committee has not found the time to engage with the issue.

This week, Ngcobo said the draft by-laws will be published soon for public comment.

“These by-laws provide for licences to deal in fireworks, the requirements for the handling and storage of fireworks, the sale of fireworks, the use or exploding of fireworks, and public fireworks displays.”

Ngcobo said that at the moment, residents should report people who contravene the Explosives Act.

“Irresponsible use, illegal trade and supply, and the dangerous use of fireworks are essentially regulated by the act and its regulations.” She said anyone can lay charges against any person who contravenes the act, and “if animals suffer as a result of the misuse of fireworks, charges as provided for in the Animal Protection Act may be laid”.

NEIGHBOURS at the weekend took exception to the noise of fireworks being discharged by a Hindu family in Bridge Road, Prestbury, and the family’s car tyres were slashed. Shashi Singh said his family’s “happy moments” were ruined by the incident.

Neighbours told The Witness that the noise of the fireworks from Singh’s home was excessive.

“I live almost two blocks from the house and they were letting off bombs; the noise was extremely loud,” said one.

Another said his dog fled because of the fireworks. “My heart is sore, my dog is missing. I have been searching down the river and everywhere, but I can’t find her.” He said his dog was last seen at 7 pm on Saturday, but disappeared after the fireworks started going off. “There were big explosions and my dog went astray afterwards.”

CAPTAIN Clarence Richard of the SA Police Service explosives unit said there was nothing illegal about the fireworks being let off in Bridge Road on Saturday night.

He said fireworks in the city are very strictly controlled and there is no evidence to suggest that bigger fireworks are being let off than those allowed by regulations.

“We have done extensive inspections at most of the fireworks dealers and they are abiding by the law.”

Richard said Pietermaritzburg police are stricter than those in other cities in regulating the fireworks available for purchase by the public.

He added that the unit did not receive any calls pertaining to fireworks over the Diwali weekend.

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