Cape Town - A row has erupted between the Durbanville Islamic Society (DIS) and a city councillor after the society’s chairman was apparently told to take down two banners he hung at the Durbanville town hall, one of which bore a Nelson Mandela quote relating to Palestine.

DA ward councillor Theresa Uys said she asked for the banners to be removed not because of their content but because she didn’t want the society to be fined for erecting them illegally.

But chairman Anwar Ismael wasn’t impressed.

He told Weekend Argus they hired the hall every Friday afternoon for prayers. On Friday, they had decided to hang two banners in honour of Mandela Day.

Ismael said the first banner bore a picture of Mandela and his words: “Freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

It was hung on the side of the hall facing Durbanville Avenue.

The second, smaller banner was hung on the outside of the hall’s fence. It read: “Free Palestine”.

Ismael said he had just finished putting up the second banner when he was approached by Uys, who asked him to remove them both.

“I proceeded to ask her why. I thought we were doing these things to honour Mandela.”

Uys had responded that no matter what message was on the banners, they had to be removed because no formal application had been made to hang them.

Ismael said he had reminded Uys it was Mandela Day but she told him if the banners weren’t removed, he could face a fine of R3 000.

Asked to comment,

Uys said she had received “a few complaints from the residents” about the society’s banners.

She asked that they be taken down because the DIS did not have permission to hang them.

“If the banners stayed up, they would have been fined, like a church was a few months ago, a fact which was pointed out by a DIS member at the hall.

“I have a good working relationship with the DIS and would have hated for them to get fined and I believe we will work on more community projects in the future,” she said.

Ismael said he had decided to take down the banners. But minutes after Uys’s warning, the police had arrived.

They had not confiscated the banners.

The prayer service went ahead as planned.

Ismael thought it was wrong the banners had to be taken down, as it was Mandela Day.

He said the society had wanted to honour the “great icon” Mandela, while also drawing attention to what was going on in Gaza.

Uys told Weekend Argus she would meet the society soon to discuss the matter.

Weekend Argus