Cape Town - The Mughammadiyyah Masjied committee in Salt River has launched a petition demanding that mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis initiate the process of amending the noise and nuisance by-law of 2007 relating to places of worship.
This followed a widespread outcry after the mosque received a notice from the City to turn down the volume of the call to prayer as a result of a complaint received in terms of the provincial noise control regulations.
The petition was started on Friday after the meeting between the committee and Hill-Lewis and has garnered more than 6 500 signatures. The mosque aims to gather 100 000 signatures.
Last month, Hill-Lewis announced that the “noise and nuisance” section of the streets, public spaces and prevention of noise and nuisances by-law was no longer applicable to designated places of worship in terms of the promulgated standard operating procedure applicable to places of worship.
The opposition parties regarded this as Hill-Lewis reneging from his promise to amend the by-law.
Masjid spokesperson Anwar Omar said the committee differed with HillLewis in terms of his approach regarding the standard operating procedure, as opposed to an amended by-law, and recommended that he reconsider his position and initiate the process of amending the by-law.
Omar said the committee was of the view that the standard operating procedure did not go far enough and did not offer sufficient protection to places of worship from spurious complaints in terms of the relevant by-law.
“The CoCT can at any time invoke both the Western Cape noise control regulations and/or the relevant by-law if they feel it necessary or appropriate to do so. So, in essence, places of worship have not been completely exempted from the by-law,” he said.
Omar said the standard operating procedure was not legislation but an instruction by Hill-Lewis to officials on how they needed to interpret, apply and execute provisions contained in the by-law.
He said that because this was a standard operating procedure, not an amendment to the by-law, Hill-Lewis was able to promulgate the standard operating procedure unilaterally without following the public participation process.
Hill-Lewis said he explained to the mosque management what the City was doing to further protect them.
“The policy we released last month makes it clear that the Athaan and church bells are protected (if the venues are properly zoned as places of worship). We are committed to this protection – it is secure and meaningful, and it isn’t going anywhere.
“This means that the only regulation which still applies is the provincial noise control regulation, which is only enforced in terms of specific decibel limits – this is fair and reasonable in a plural society, something the masjid management wholeheartedly agrees with,” he said.
Hill-Lewis said Omar’s legal interpretation was incorrect, as amending the City by-law would not change the provincial regulations.