GOOD Party calls out City of Cape Town for its new by-law

Pro-Palestinian marchers gathered in Cape Town. Picture: Tracey Adams / IOL News

Pro-Palestinian marchers gathered in Cape Town. Picture: Tracey Adams / IOL News

Published Dec 12, 2023


The City of Cape Town has come under fire for allegedly ill-treating pro-Palestine groups by use of its new by-law.

The GOOD Party has accused the City of this ill-treatment via its new outdoor advertising by-law that allegedly bars public display of Palestine flags and signs.

GOOD Party caucus leader, Suzette Little said the City jumped to table a new outdoor advertising by-law after residents in Bo-Kaap erected pro-Palestine signs outside their homes.

She said law enforcement officers also threatened to fine these homeowners, and residents who attended the Switching on the Lights festival last month were also threatened with being fined for carrying the Palestinian flag.

“The proposed by-law is startlingly reminiscent of apartheid legislation that banned the display of materials advocating for justice. It is like a piece of PW Botha’s emergency legislation. It would certainly make Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu proud.

“The city wants its by-law to control the display of signage on road reserves, including road shoulders and side-walks, and on all public façades. In other words, anywhere where anyone can see it.

“Besides outlawing fixed signage, the city seeks to outlaw walking advertisements, including walking sandwich boards and hand-held signs,” Little said in a statement.

She said these actions by the city beg the question of whether it further intends on harassing homeless people by acting against them for the signs they carry at traffic lights requesting money or whether it is purely focused on clamping down on political protests.

“The City of Cape Town should realise it cannot control what residents think. The apartheid government thought it could, but was ultimately forced to cede power. By banning residents from expressing themselves where they live and play, whether by displaying a verse from the Bible or a Palestinian flag, the city assumes the role of thought police.

“What is happening in Gaza profoundly disturbs us, as Capetonians, because we recognise the injustice of apartheid and how difficult it was to get rid of it.

“The City of Cape Town should be proud of its residents who stand up for justice,” Little said.

She made it clear that the GOOD Party does not support the by-law in its current format.

However, mayoral committee member for safety and security, Alderman JP Smith, addressed the alleged incident involving law enforcement and a street artist in Bo-Kaap.

Smith said that upon investigation, it was found that a graffiti complaint was submitted to law enforcement.

“The responding officer did not issue a fine because the street artist was busy painting private property with the consent of the owner. It is important to note that there was no conflict between the artist, Bo-Kaap residents, law enforcement, or the police, as claimed.

“We take this opportunity to urge residents to exercise caution when sharing information to prevent any unnecessary panic,” Smith said.

In response to IOL, the City of Cape Town said it wants to caution residents against misinformation about street art.

“The City of Cape Town has noted some misinformation doing the rounds about the Outdoor Advertising By-law that was approved by Council at its meeting on December 7, 2023. Work on the by-law has been going on for over four years, with many hours of engagements with stakeholders and residents since 2019.

“It is intended to regulate outdoor advertising and signage and will replace the current Outdoor Advertising and Signage by-law of 2001, once published in the government gazette,” it said.

It also urged residents not to confuse the outdoor advertising by-law with the Graffiti By-law.

“The intention of the newly-approved outdoor advertising by-law is to regulate outdoor advertising in a manner that facilitates economic opportunities while being sensitive to Cape Town’s natural and cultural environment. Many areas within the city have unique visual, historical, and cultural appeal, and this must be taken into account in the permitting of outdoor advertising,” the City said.

The by-law addresses outdoor advertising, among which: billboards; free-standing signs; window signs; sky signs; roof signs; signs on a veranda, balcony, canopy, columns, pillars, and posts; signs on boundary walls and fences; construction site signs and development boards; newspaper headline posters; advertising on banners, flags, balloons, inflatables, and lamp pole swivel banners; posters; property marketing signs; portable signs; aerial signs; transit advertising for non-profit events; signs on city-owned land or buildings; signs by or for the benefit of non-profit bodies; and sponsored murals that contain advertisements.

“The above sign types are not all regulated with equal complexity, and a number of sign types are permitted without the need for an application. But there must be a common understanding that outdoor advertising and signs should not compromise the safety and flow of traffic, be it vehicular or pedestrian traffic, nor should it have an adverse effect on the local character by way of appearance, size, or illumination,” the City said.

It further urged those wanting to commission murals to do so in accordance with the Graffiti By-law.

The by-law states: A recognised artist or organisation commissioned to produce artwork must make an application to the Arts and Culture Branch for a Public Art Permit. The process is outlined in Section 9 of the Graffiti By-law, which has been in place since 2010.

The by-law can be accessed here.