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Durban - With the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, around the corner, city authorities are warning residents to avoid the big bangs, which are now forbidden.
“It doesn’t only affect the people but animals as well. (And) we are urging people to follow the municipality’s policy and not to let off fireworks in sensitive spaces,” said eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo.
Fireworks often spark contention among communities, and in an attempt to diffuse a potentially volatile situation during the November 3 festival, the SA Hindu Maha Sabha has suggested that fireworks only be lit during the allowed hours.
Fireworks are allowed only on the day of Diwali, according to the by-laws.
The organisation’s president, Ashwin Trikamjee, said the city’s explosives unit had informed them that the so-called big bangs were forbidden and they would be relaying this message to fireworks’ dealers.
“The problem is confined to the Durban area because of a lack of tolerance on one hand, and a lack of discipline on the other,” he said. “We need a level of respect. We’ve been calling for a banning of big bangs and our call has been met positively.”
He said his organisation would also be looking at setting up a telephone complaints line during the festival, although the police authorities would still deal with the matters.
The president of the KZN branch of the South African Tamil Federation, Balan Gounder, said people should follow the city’s bylaws.
“I am not sorry that they banned the loud bangs. Animal lovers always create a fuss at this time so it should help,” he said.
Caroline Smith, head of marketing at Durban and Coast SPCA, said they appreciated the sentiment and encouraged the community to follow the suggestion, although she was concerned, as people had flouted city by-laws in recent years.
“We would prefer for the fireworks to only be on one day, November 3,” she said.
“It’s still a big ask for all pet owners to medicate their pets for a whole week.”
Smith said that on November 3 a team of inspectors would be on duty and people could call their emergency line, 083 212 6103, to report any injured or stray animals. The SPCA’s landline – 031 579 6500 – will also be open.
She said calming tablets were also available at the SPCA.
Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi said any positive engagement with regards to fireworks was welcome.
He specified via e-mail response that the 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.
“Display fireworks require special permission from the SAPS explosive division,” Msomi said.
“Nuisance fireworks refer to fireworks that give off a screech or very loud noise or that have been altered or misused to create fear or disturbance. These include fireworks such as air bombs, supersonic bangs, sound shells, fountain whistles and screeches. These are not allowed and will be monitored.”
Msomi said on the main day of Diwali, November 3, fireworks would be permitted from 12pm to 12am. Any fireworks let off on any other day had to comply with noise restrictions, which meant nothing after 10pm.
Children under 16 needed adult supervision to handle fireworks and all detonations must be as far away as possible from hospitals, clinics, petrol stations, old age and nursing homes as well as animal welfare organisations, said Msomi.
“Metro police will definitely enhance deployment during this day particularly at identified usual hot spot areas.”
Asked whether the municipality would consider holding a city celebration at a public place, Nxumalo said this would be considered in future.
“We are a diverse country and all people need to respect other cultures,” he said.
“We need to make compromises.”