The SAHRC called on all citizens and communities to be mindful of each other’s rights and in particular to respect all persons’ rights to equality, human dignity, freedom of religion and to practice their respective cultures. File Picture: Jim McLagan
The SAHRC called on all citizens and communities to be mindful of each other’s rights and in particular to respect all persons’ rights to equality, human dignity, freedom of religion and to practice their respective cultures. File Picture: Jim McLagan

SAHRC to meet with KZN and GP municipalities on by-laws on the use of fireworks during Diwali

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Nov 2, 2021

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DURBAN - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said their provincial offices in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal would engage with municipalities on by-laws pertaining to Diwali celebrations and/or the use of fireworks.

The commission has, in recent years, received numerous complaints especially during and after Diwali celebrations. Among these were reports of a Pretoria family being told to go back to India; Hindu organisations’ complaining about nine people over Diwali “hate speech”; and social media rants about fireworks during Diwali celebrations.

This year Diwali falls on Thursday, November 4.

“More often than not the festival of Diwali is marked, in part, by the use of fireworks. This is sometimes met with pushback, disagreement, anger or even religious intolerance from neighbours and others in the broader community.

“Complaints around the use of fireworks often centre on their environmental consequences – ranging from health and safety concerns to the impact firework sounds have on animals and domestic pets in particular. These two different positions can and have resulted in conflict,” the SAHRC said.

The commission said the conflict can be mitigated through the development of clear communication and enforcement of by-laws managing the use of fireworks generally, but also specifically in relation to the festival of Diwali.

Appropriate by-laws, readily available and clearly communicated, have the ability to create a framework allowing for a considered balance between various rights, the SAHRC says.

By-laws should be developed at a municipal level and must involve meaningful public participation.

The commission said that would be the starting point of the planned intervention by the two provincial offices when they meet with the specific municipalities.

The four points of the intervention are:

  1. Advise municipalities to develop, with meaningful public participation, an applicable by-law if they do not have one.
  2. Provide an opportunity for municipalities that have applicable by-laws to share and discuss those.
  3. Advise municipalities to make their by-laws readily accessible and to communicate these by-laws clearly and frequently via appropriate platforms and communication channels, and to do so in particular when these by-laws are more likely to be invoked – in relation to the use of fireworks then, around the Hindu New Year, Diwali and New Year’s Eve for instance.
  4. Advise municipalities to ensure that law enforcement, including the SAPS, is familiar with the local municipal by-laws and that fair enforcement of these by-laws is undertaken in part to educate and inform local residents but also to ensure compliance.

The commission called on all citizens and communities to be mindful of each other’s rights and in particular to respect all persons’ rights to equality, human dignity, freedom of religion and to practice their respective cultures. It also called on everyone to exercise religious tolerance during this significant period.

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