Durban - Despite a ban on loud fireworks, those with names such as Breaking the Law, Osama’s Double Delight and Gorilla Bombs are still being sold in Durban, over and under the counter.
Daily News reporters visited five stores and had no difficulty buying them at two stores in Chatsworth and the Durban CBD, where sales assistants were only too keen to bring out the big bangs.
According to metro police, who will be monitoring various areas during Diwali and Guy Fawkes celebrations, the fireworks that are not allowed are those that give off a screech or very loud noise or those which have been altered or misused to create disturbance.
Examples that provincial metro police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Eugene Msomi, had cited included air bombs, supersonic bangs, sound shells, fountain whistles and screeches.
But for those willing to hand over wads of cash for them, a substantial selection of big bangs is available, with some dealers taking out large newspaper advertisements in smaller local papers to entice buyers.
“Fireworks called Hand Grenades, Bombing Plane, Mumbai Mega Missiles and the Five-gun Salute were advertised,” said a Daily News reader.
A visit to stores confirmed this. In an arcade near Chatsworth’s Tranquil Street, a store with no name, which was out of sight from the general public, displayed placards advertising its wares.
Behind two small doors, a large variety of fireworks was on display in a room the size of a school hall.
When asked for the loud bangs, a sales assistant pulled out hidden boxes from under the tables with brands such as Gorilla Bombs and Osama’s Double Delight.
In comparison, the nearby Daddy’s Fireworks store offered an array of silent showers. A sales assistant politely informed patrons that the outlet was not allowed to sell loud bangs. Instead, he offered buyers fireworks called Spiders and Colourflowers. “They’re still loud, but within reason,” he said.
However a fireworks store in the Durban CBD was selling fireworks, including Mumbai Missiles, which are considered illegal.
Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha, said on Wednesday they had issued a statement in several newspapers alerting people that the big bangs had been banned.
He said the SAPS Explosives Unit needed to clamp down on offenders. He called on Hindus to be mindful of others when celebrating.
Msomi said on Diwali day, on Sunday, fireworks would be allowed from noon until midnight.
Any fireworks let off on any other day had to comply with noise restrictions, which meant nothing after 10pm.
City by-laws categorised Diwali as a religious and cultural day and, as such, low hazard fireworks such as “fountains, golden rain, lawn light and sparklers” could be lit at private homes.
Msomi said the metro police would conduct extra patrols during Diwali, particularly in areas known to be problematic.
“Residents can contact our call centre at 031 361 0000 should they find that people are not complying with the by-laws, and the metro police will respond,” he said.
The National Council of SPCAs on Wednesday issued an appeal of restraint to everyone celebrating Diwali and Guy Fawkes.
“Diwali is the Festival of Light and its beauty is inherent. Loud bangs form no part of it,” said spokeswoman, Christine Kuch.
“Guy Fawkes has no relevance to South Africa and it is questioned why it is ‘celebrated’ at all.”
She said laws relating to the use of fireworks were “watertight”, with the Explosives Act covering the sale and the discharge of fireworks in public places. Fireworks being discharged on private property have to comply with the local by-laws.
“Anyone with an animal is requested to be responsible and to ensure the animal’s safety and comfort,” said Kuch.
“The hearing of animals is far more acute and sensitive than that of humans.
“If a dog can hear a grasshopper eat, imagine what a firework sounds like.”
The Durban and Coast SPCA said it would have a team of inspectors on duty and people could contact the emergency line – 083 212 6103 – to report any injured or stray animals. The landline is 031 579 6500.