The South African Hindu Maha Sabha says it is happy with the resolution reached regarding complaints raised about incense smoke at a Morningside block of flats. Picture: Pexels
The South African Hindu Maha Sabha says it is happy with the resolution reached regarding complaints raised about incense smoke at a Morningside block of flats. Picture: Pexels

Agreement reached over burning of incense at block of flats

By Karen Singh Time of article published Sep 17, 2020

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Durban - THE South African Hindu Maha Sabha says it is happy with the resolution reached regarding complaints raised about incense smoke at a Morningside block of flats.

The complaints sparked public debate and accusations of religious intolerance.

Hindu Maha Sabha president Ashwin Trikamjee said he met Wakefields Property Management and Morningside Ridge’s board of trustees this week to discuss two letters sent by the parties to residents regarding the issue.

The first letter, dated September 9, stated that numerous complaints were received from residents regarding the smoke from “religious practices” that were deemed a “nuisance”, according to the body corporate rules.

The letter warned that remedial action would be taken if the issue persisted.

After the letter was shared on social media, sparking an outcry, a second letter was issued that stated that the trustees and managing agents used the wrong “wording” in the first letter and should have rather used the words “discomfort and inconvenience experienced”.

The second letter further reminded residents to be “mindful” of other residents and adhere to the rules after they received video footage and complaints of excessive smoke believed to come from the burning of a mix of items during a prayer.

The first letter was withdrawn and Wakefields and the board of trustees said they respected the diversity of residents at the complex, who had the right to live in harmony while practising their cultural beliefs and customs.

In a statement on September 11, the body corporate responded to the allegations of religious intolerance.

Body corporate chairperson Selo Albert said general communication with residents regarding this matter began in February 2020 after receiving a complaint towards the end of last year. More complaints had been received recently, she said.

Albert said the matter was not an issue of race or religious intolerance and noted that all the trustees were, in fact, practising Hindus.

“The trustees consider it a priority to deal with complaints from the residents of the scheme, and in carrying our remedial actions we must be acutely aware and sensitive to the well-being of others,” said Albert.

In a statement, managing director of Wakefields John Wakefield said it had engaged with the board of trustees and Trikamjee to seek clarity on the issues that arose from the letters.

Wakefield said the request to all owners and residents was to respect other people and be mindful of the environments in which they live.

“Community living is most successful when there is a healthy respect and tolerance for the rights and dignity of fellow community members.

“As such, the trustees implore all residents to abide by the body corporate rules and regulations and demonstrate a healthy respect for each other’s cultures and religious practices.”

Trikamjee said the Hindu Maha Sabha was happy that the issues of burning incense sticks and the performing of a Hindu religious prayer, or Havan, had been resolved.

He said the country’s constitution protected the religious and cultural rights of every South African, and the notices in the first instance had been unlawful.

“We are now satisfied that the insensitive and unlawful comments around the rules that were set out in the previous two notices have now been retracted and sense has prevailed,” said Trikamjee.

He added that the building’s occupants could practise cultural and religious beliefs as long as they did so within the confines of their homes and took into account the rights of other people.

The Mercury

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