’Nuisance’ incense sticks a burning issue at Durban block of flats
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Durban - INCENSE sticks have become a burning issue at a Morningside block of flats, with a property management company sending a warning about the smoke causing a “nuisance”.
Wakefields Property Management sent a letter to all occupants of Morningside Ridge, notifying them of complaints received from tenants regarding smoke from religious practices affecting their units and causing discomfort.
The letter, dated September 9, reads: “Numerous complaints have been received from occupants regarding smoke from religious practices affecting their units and causing discomfort/nuisance and we appeal to all residents to be mindful of other residents when burning incense. We draw to your attention Clause 15(1) of the Body Corporate Rules which reads - NUISANCE: 1) ‘An owner shall not cause or permit any disorderly conduct of whatsoever nature in a section or upon any part of the common property or do or permit any act, matter or thing in or about the same which shall constitute or cause a nuisance or any inconvenience to any other owner or occupier of the building or member of the body corporate’. Should this persist, the body corporate will have to take remedial action as per the rules.”
The warning was lambasted on social media, with users saying it showed religious intolerance.
“So people don’t even light scented candles? Absurd. This is an invasion of personal space. If it’s in your home, how does it affect others?” asked one user.
Another said: “Must get Wakefields housing policy statement and tenant agreement. Are these discussed prior to occupation or developed on an ad hoc basis arising from B.C. (Body Corporate) meetings? Need to report them to the body corporate Ombudsman.”
Another user said the complaint was informed by “some kind of vendetta”.
“The units in this development are quite large. Even two incense sticks lit every day will not cause any discomfort. I would also like to know about the remedial action.”
A resident who lives in the block said: “Wakefields are just doing their job as building management. We need to tackle the body corporate, most are our Hindu brothers, and identify who complained. My wife burns incense morning and afternoon. My two neighbours are of a different faith and have no problem with our practice.”
SA Hindu Dharma Sabha president Ram Maharaj said burning incense was an age-old worldwide “healthy practice”.
“To say the incense caused discomfort/nuisance is hurtful, unjustifiable, insensitive, demeaning and invasive of the dignity of the Hindu religion. The incense stick consists of perfumed ingredients. The fragrant smoke serves as a disinfectant, purifies the air, creates a divine atmosphere and wards off negative vibrations.
“When an entity like the body corporate formulates rules, it must be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, which guarantees all citizens equal rights to practice their religion; hence the point that those who light incense sticks should do so within the confines of their premises, taking into consideration others who are in close proximity who are of different faiths,” Maharaj said.
Wakefields managing director John Wakefield said it was unfortunate that the letter was taken “the other way” as their intention was “sincere”.
“It was for people to be mindful of other residents,” he said.
SA Hindu Maha Sabha president Ashwin Trikamjee said he had sent a letter to Wakefields for clarity on the nature in which its notice was drafted.