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Media Advisory: SAHRC – Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Offices will be engaging with municipalities on by-laws, if any, pertaining to Diwali celebrations and/or the use of fireworks

Attention: Editors and Reporters

29 October 2021

Worldwide adherents to the Hindu faith celebrate the festival of Diwali, also known as Deepavali – the “row of lights” - to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. In Hindu culture, light is a powerful metaphor for knowledge and consciousness and also a reminder of the preciousness of education, self-inquiry and improvement.
This year the festival of Diwali falls on 4 November.

More often than not the festival of Diwali is marked, in part, by the use of fireworks. This is sometimes met with pushback, disagreement, anger or even religious intolerance from neighbors and others in the broader community. Complaints around the use of fireworks often center on their environmental consequences – ranging from health and safety concerns, to the impact firework sounds have on animals and domestic pets in particular. These two differing positions can and have resulted in conflict.

This conflict can be mitigated through the development of and/or clear communication and enforcement of by-laws managing the use of fireworks generally but also specifically in relation to the festival of Diwali. Appropriate by-laws, readily available and clearly communicated, have the ability to create a framework allowing for a considered balance between various rights.

By way of example the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality Emergency Services By-Law allows for the use of fireworks to mark both the Hindu New Year and Diwali. The by-law however limits the time fireworks can be set off to between 19h00 and 22h00 on both occasions. As a consequence, and if well communicated to residents, this by-law allows for residents to plan accordingly and to take measures to ensure, for example, the safety of their pets. It allows for emergency services to be alert and on standby. In short, if clearly communicated, this by-law creates a framework in which residents can exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities to others and in the process hopefully reduce possible conflict.

By-laws however should be developed at a municipal level and must involve meaningful public participation – and so the example above is only meant to be illustrative of the positive role considered by-laws can have.

This then is the departure point of the planned intervention the Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal provincial offices will have with specific municipalities.

The intervention will:
1.    Advise municipalities to develop, with meaningful public participation, an applicable by-law if they do not have one.
2.    Provide an opportunity for municipalities who have applicable by-laws to share and discuss those.
3.    Advise municipalities to make their by-laws readily accessible and to communicate these by-laws clearly and frequently via appropriate platforms and communication channels, and to do so in particular when these by-laws are more likely to be invoked – in relation to the use of fireworks then, around the Hindu New Year, Diwali and New Year’s Eve for instance.
4.    Advise municipalities to ensure that law enforcement, including SAPS, is familiar with the local municipal by-laws and that fair enforcement of these by-laws is undertaken in part to educate and inform local residents but also to ensure compliance.

The Commission would also like to take this opportunity to wish all Hindus celebrating the festival of lights, a Happy and safe Diwali 2021.  The Commission further calls on all citizens and communities to be mindful of each other’s rights and in particular to respect all persons’ rights to equality, human dignity, freedom of religion and to practice their respective cultures. The Commission accordingly calls on everyone to exercise religious tolerance during this significant period.

For further information or enquiries, please contact; SAHRC GAUTENG AND KZN Provincial Managers, Mr Buang Jones on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 078 617 0476 and Mr Lloyd Lotz on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or at  072 840 7910.

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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