541 Advertising billboards on the M1 north near Parktown in Johannesburg. They have been declared to be illegal. No advertising is supposed to be on the freeway since its a distraction to motorists. 260611 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya


THE City of Joburg is contravening its own outdoor advertising by-laws by allowing illegal billboards and signs on the M1 freeway.

Municipal by-laws specifically state that there can be no advertising on the on- and off-ramps, and on the medians/ islands between the two lanes of the freeways.

Also, any contract worth more than R200 000 is expected to go out to tender. According to city by-laws, street pole advertising on highways is illegal as it interferes with traffic safety.

Now the DA says the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), which was aware that the advertising is illegal, has entered into new lease agreements with at least three companies for advertising worth about R190 million.

But the JPC says it is invoking “emergency and exceptional circumstances” to allow the council to deviate from the tender process. The JPC would not elaborate on what these circumstances were.

The Star reported in April last year that a council official from the legal and compliance department had confirmed in writing that the advertising did not comply with by-laws, as no approvals were granted because the location of the signs was contrary to the provisions of the by-laws.

Councillor Christo Botes, DA spokesman for development planning and urban management, said the council had struggled with enforcing its own outdoor advertising by-laws.

Reports served at both the mayoral and the development planning committees in January this year, he said, highlighted at least 200 illegal billboards in the city. The officials told councillors at these meetings that the council did not have the funds or capacity to enforce the by-laws.

“However, while there are no funds to enforce the by-laws, the council seems to be very happy to derive continuous income from the illegal billboards. The previous member of the mayoral committee has publicly stated that the council intends to fund the city’s liquidity crisis with, among others, rental income from outdoor advertising companies,” he said.

Botes said the council’s illegal actions went further. Potential and existing advertising on council property had to be put out on tender, according to the Municipal Finance Management Act. In these cases, he said, no tenders were invited.

“The city cannot rely on the emergency regulations to deviate from the tender process as there is no emergency, and no exceptional circumstances, and it is not impractical, nor impossible, to follow the official procurement process. All illegal billboards have to be removed and the council’s procurement policy has to be adhered to.”

The JPC, Botes added, did not have the mandate to regularise outdoor advertising and said it

held the sole mandate to, among others, manage advertising sites owned by the council and its outdoor advertising portfolio.

JPC spokesman Brian Mahlangu said that in an attempt to regularise the portfolio, the JPC embarked on a “positive initiative in an attempt to promote the city to international standards regarding outdoor advertising”.

Mahlangu said the JPC had complied with the act, which allowed the council to deviate from the tender process if it was done under “emergency or exceptional circumstances where it is impractical or impossible to follow the official procurement processes”.