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The City of Cape Town’s planning committee this week approved amendments to the Informal Trading By-law that will make it possible for street performers to “practise public art in public spaces”.
They would also be allowed to perform between 10am and 6pm as opposed to the current regulation which restricts them to performing between 12.45pm and 2pm.
Included in this definition were street musicians, acrobats, clowns, comedians, contortionists, dancers, singers mimes, living statues, puppeteers, storytellers, poets, painters and snake charmers.
But councillors objected to snake charming, saying the city was bound by animal protection laws. Councillor Franklyn Raymond said permits were required for certain snakes, and it would be advisable to exclude this form of entertainment from the by-law.
The amendments, to be released for public comment, will form part of the city’s Informal Trading and Street Performance By-law.
It’s a move that will provide some reassurance for street performers such as blind busker Lunga Goodman Nono, 51, who had charges of flouting city by-laws against him withdrawn on Tuesday.
A charge of disobeying the instruction of a law enforcement officer laid against his wife, Abigail, was also dropped.
The Delft couple would have had to pay a fine of R1 500 if found guilty. Goodman was forcibly removed from his spot on the corner of St George’s Mall and Shortmarket Street by the city’s law enforcement officers in July.
Although he was accused of flouting city by-laws and of performing outside prescribed times, the city conceded it did not have a clear by-law for buskers.
Planning executive director Japie Hugo said that while busking was not viewed in the same light as informal trading, there were not enough clauses dealing with the issue to justify it having its own by-law.
Charles Parkerson, of the city’s planning department, said there were only about 20 buskers in the city and that overregulation of this activity would be “overkill”. It was also not considered an annoyance, and therefore could not be included in the city’s Streets and Nuisance by-law.
“We are saying that we would like to provide a space for people to perform and possibly make some money from it. We need to recognise it is not a nuisance,” said Dave Bryant, ward councillor for the city centre.
The amendments provide for street performances of solo artists or groups, on a first-come-first-serve basis, provided that no drums or amplification equipment are used. There may also be no obstruction to pedestrians or cars.
Artists can perform freely between 10am and 6pm from Mondays to Saturdays, but the city may still be able to impose conditions on street performers.