Fireworks as SPCA goes to war over noise
On Thursday, the high court in Joburg granted the Kempton Park SPCA’s request for an interdict against the City of Ekurhuleni’s planned fireworks display at its New Year’s Eve celebration.
In bringing the legal action, the SPCA chapter argued fireworks needed to be banned to protect animals that might be frightened by the noise.
In response to the court victory, the SPCA said: “A reminder to members of the public to keep your animals safe over this time. Ensure that your pets have identification and that they are kept in a secure and comfortable environment.”
However, in a statement, the city said its Joint Organising Committee had already rejected the use of fireworks on December 21. According to the statement: “The rejection for a fireworks licence was based on the proximity to the residential area and flights passing to and from OR Tambo International Airport.”
Spokespersons from the Ekurhuleni metro police department (EMPD) were unavailable to comment on how the police department might enforce such an interdict, if necessary.
The City of Ekurhuleni had boasted on social media that its New Year’s Eve celebration at Dries Niemandt Park, would be the “biggest NYE fireworks display in South Africa”.
But on Facebook there were complaints about the display, with one person threatening to sue the city if it planned another show.
The city blamed the ads on “pre-programmed social media” that was written before the organising committee vetoed the fireworks.
An online petition circulated in response, garnering more than 2000 signatures by on Friday afternoon. According to the petition, the fireworks would be harmful to wildlife in the area and would be so frightening to pets that they could “impale themselves on palisade fencing”.
On Facebook, SPCA Kempton Park wrote: “Fireworks are traumatic for all animals, not only our pets. They are also very distressful to small children, the elderly and the infirm. It’s unnecessary to cause undue stress.
“Do you know what the SPCA does?” Kempton Park SPCA chairperson Kira Sparrow asked. “How could I stand by if there are going to be fireworks just down the road from us?”
Ekurhuleni’s festivities will still include pyrotechnics and musical performances.
Meanwhile, police have begun cracking down on fireworks across Gauteng.
According to JMPD spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar, police were sweeping the metro area to ensure compliance with by-laws. On Thursday, JMPD confiscated R5000 worth of fireworks from unlicensed dealers in Bruma.
The operation began on Monday and will continue through the new year. On Friday, the police made stops in Hillbrow, the CBD and Kliptown and only found several instances of non-compliance.
Minnaar said non-compliance is down from previous years. “You can attribute the improvement in the current situation to the extensive educational campaigns and also the extensive community engagement,” he said.
Virgil James, a spokesperson for the City of Joburg, said that no residents had yet complained about its planned “City of Joburg Countdown to 2017” concert fireworks display in Newtown.
“With fireworks, there’s going to be noise, but it’s not excessive noise that goes on forever,” James said. Police and other safety personnel would be on site, and the display would take place away from buildings.
“The fireworks display is a controlled event, so the road is shut down because it takes place on the highway above Mary Fitzgerald Square,” James said. The M1 will be closed in both directions from 10pm to 1am. He said the fireworks show would last 5-10 minutes, and the highway will be opened as quickly as possible following the finale.
Joburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi also outlined guidelines for safe use of fireworks.
Mulaudzi said that when using fireworks, people need to be sure to “never throw ignited crackers at animals; always stand well back; never return to a cracker once lit because it may go off in one’s face”.
Setting off fireworks is only permitted from between 11pm on the night of New Year’s Eve until 1am the next morning. If people are caught lighting fireworks outside of the prescribed times, they can be fined R1500.
The same fine is applicable to those caught igniting fireworks in public, near animals or within 500 metres of sensitive buildings such as explosives factories and old-age homes.