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The City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Directorate is relieved that Guy Fawkes has come and gone, after a fairly busy evening, made all the more challenging by a gusting southeaster.

The wind conditions resulted in the early closure of many of the 12 designated sites for the discharge of fireworks because of safety considerations. The fire marshal on site at Maiden’s Cove made the decision to close the site as early as 19:00. A similar decision was made in Table View at 20:15.

These closures meant an increase in the number of complaints from other beach areas and open spaces in close proximity, but also an increase in the number of people at the Strandfontein and Athlone sites, which turned out to be the busiest on the night.

Below is a summary of key statistics recorded by the Joint Operations Centre in terms of designated sites:

  • 22 injuries (18 children – seven females and 11 males; four adults – three females and one male)
  • 15 of the injuries were recorded at Strandfontein Pavilion
  • A 10-year-old boy sustained an eye injury at the Strandfontein Pavilion and was transported to hospital for further treatment
  • Another 10-year-old sustained a leg injury in Sarepta and was referred to his general practitioner for further treatment
  • All other injured people were treated on site for minor injuries
  • Just before 23:00, staff confiscated a bakkie-load of illegal fireworks at Athlone stadium

Away from the designated sites, the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre fielded 209 calls on the day that were specific to Guy Fawkes and the illegal discharge of fireworks. On the ground, City staff confiscated hundreds of units of fireworks and issued numerous fines for the illegal sale thereof. They further issued more than 100 verbal warnings about the illegal discharge of fireworks in residential areas and the use of paint socks. Below is a snapshot of some of the incidents reported in Lavender Hill and surrounds:

  • A security guard had to be hospitalised after he was attacked along Military Road by a gang of youths brandishing bricks in socks. He sustained injuries to his head and ear. Law Enforcement officers fired two rubber rounds to ward off the assailants
  • A man on a bicycle on his way home from church was attacked with paint socks
  • A woman and two children were injured when a gang attacked them with paint socks
  • A boy was run over by a vehicle while fleeing from a gang of youths brandishing paint socks
  • A man on his way home from work was attacked and robbed by three youngsters in Drury Road, Capricorn

This is but an example of the terror many communities endure on Guy Fawkes. Apart from the disturbance that fireworks cause, the behaviour of marauding gangs attacking innocent people is downright criminal. The constant sound of fireworks also masks the sound of gunshots, making it difficult for police to respond to real emergencies effectively.

The City of Cape Town is already doing as much as any local authority can to minimise the use of fireworks. However, the upcoming  review of the By-law relating to Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances in the next year offers an opportunity to take a fresh legal and constitutional look at the City’s powers in this regard. Furthermore, we urge civil society to petition National Government for stronger legislation relating to the sale and use of fireworks by the general public.

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