The City’s amendment of the Street, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances by-law has sparked outrage among certain organisations. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
The City’s amendment of the Street, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances by-law has sparked outrage among certain organisations. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

City of Cape Town amendments to noise nuisances by-law causes outrage

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published May 22, 2020

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Cape Town - The City’s amendment of the Street, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances by-law has sparked outrage among certain organisations.

The Trust Board of the Zeenatul Islam Mosque in District Six has written a letter opposing and rejecting the draft amendment, saying it contravenes basic civil liberties and that it gives City officials attempting to implement it, overarching powers.

The mosque was in the news in the past after a complaint was laid with the City over the noise levels of the adhaan (call to prayer).

The by-law controls and monitors various types of behaviours in public spaces.

The board said it aims to “exclude the long-standing practices of religious institutions, such as the sounding of church bells, or the adhaan”.

It said the amendment would equip officials with “wide ranging powers mismatched to offences concerned”, thus making it more likely that abuse of power by officials may occur.

The by-law would also give officials permission to access personal documents and electronic information required to enforce the by-law.

“An official could, therefore, seize and inspect one’s personal electronic devices for photographs or messages which they may deem relevant to their investigation. It is unclear which offences in the by-law could warrant such a drastic invasion of privacy,” read the statement.

Trust chairman Yunus Ismail, said: “This move by the City is very disconcerting as it impacts on society and its relationship with the role of the council to ensure that there’s harmony and good and appropriate legislation, the fact that they have in this attempt ignored what is at the centre of an attempt to impose compliance to the regulations and councillors’ public comment that the regulations will be amended to accommodate has been ignored.”

They’ve called on the City to extend the deadline for public participation and input to the proposed draft, citing the City should consider the restrictive circumstances brought on by the National State of Disaster. A month had been set aside for public participation commencing on April 7.

Social and activists group Ndifuna Ukwazi also opposed the amendment, saying it allowed officials to remove homeless people from public spaces and impound their belongings.

In a statement, the organisation said: “The by-law represents a continuation of historic colonial and apartheid legislation that sought to remove black and poor people from public spaces. The by-law further criminalises certain behaviour that homeless people by necessity have to do in public.”

It said the amendment would allow officials to forcefully evict homeless people from their ordinary place of residence and impose a fine or imprisonment, or both.

“These effects of these powers will be harsh and will allow a perpetuation of the discrimination already experienced by homeless people, instead of protecting their rights.

“It has snuck in a ‘participation process’ in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, meaning that those most impacted by the proposed by-law (the homeless, sex workers and informal traders) will not have an opportunity to engage with issues directly affecting them.”

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