DA Cape Town Call To Prayer

Photo: Unsplash

Parties square off over by-laws affecting Islamic Call to Prayer, homeless people

The DA’s political opponents are not best pleased with a controversial set of by-laws that were passed in Cape Town on Wednesday.

DA Cape Town Call To Prayer

Photo: Unsplash

The passing of new Cape Town by-laws on Wednesday has created a storm, just one month away from local elections. The City’s ‘Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances’ legislation is now official, but political opponents have raised a serious complaint – claiming that there was an attempt to ban ‘the Call to Prayer’ – a claim the City has said is simply “lies” by the GOOD Party.

Is the Call to Prayer banned in Cape Town? NO, says the City

However, Brett Herron the Secretary-General of the GOOD Party, has lashed out at City officials, saying, “The amendments fail to honour a commitment made by the DA in 2019, to exempt the Athaan and ringing of church bells from the definition of ‘noise nuisance’. The commitment followed a public outcry over the City acting against a 100-year-old Mosque in District Six. They have no tolerance or comprehension of Cape Town’s multicultural heritage.”

“The City’s failure to honour its commitment to exempt the Muslim Call to Prayer and church bells from the definition of noise nuisance is tone-deaf and disgraceful. Provincial regulations provide for noise exemptions, but the City doesn’t want the “noise” of the Athan interfering with its gentrification agenda. “The Athan is regulated by the Provincial Regulations and enforced by local governments. The regulations provide that a local government may, on its own initiative, exempt certain sounds from being a noise nuisance,”

Brett Heron said.

Executive Mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato, however, explained that Heron’s comments are simply not true and claimed that the GOOD Party is playing cheap politics. “The City has never silenced a single mosque in Cape Town, nor does the streets by-law allow for this,” Plato said in a statement.

“The blatant lies being told by the GOOD Party in response to the passing of amendments to City by-laws yesterday must mark a new low for the party that has repeatedly shown itself to have no shame. Just yesterday, I called on all parties to please campaign safely and respectfully of one another, and with the greater good in mind,”

said Executive Mayor Dan Plato

“When the 100-year-old Mosque in District Six received a noise nuisance complaint from the City in 2019, there was an outcry. The Mayco member gave an undertaking that the DA caucus would exempt this sound when they amended the by-law… the Provincial Government can not exempt the sound as a noise nuisance,”

Herron said.

In response, the City said it “has committed to working with all stakeholders to promote a city that is culturally integrated and understanding of the diverse religions and cultures that make us Cape Town”.

DA’s controversial homelessness policy becomes law

These contentious by-laws also coincide with the introduction of a robust policy that seeks to discourage rough sleeping in Cape Town. Critics say that the new regulations ‘criminalise homelessness’, but the City insists that their proposal to fine anyone who refuses a reasonable offer of shelter is morally justifiable.

A person found sleeping in a public place without authority will first be issued a compliance notice. An offence is only committed if the individual turns down the option for a place to stay overnight. Those who do refuse can be subject to an appearance in court and further financial punishment.

Plato said he had reached out to Moulana Shaykh Allie, First-Deputy President of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), to set the record straight following the “lies being spread by the GOOD party that the City of Cape Town is criminalising the call to prayer”.

The current by-law amendments and public participation was limited to, inter alia, addressing the constitutional enforcement of the prohibition on sleeping in public spaces, and to ensure that an offer of shelter and social assistance must first be made to homeless persons. These amendments are not relevant to the call to prayer whatsoever,

Plato said.

In an interview, shared on Twitter, Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), Shaykh Riad Fataar said, “It is true that we have met with (DA) Councillor Nqavashe and (DA) Councillor Aslam Kassiem in April 2020. They called for a meeting to discuss the by-law. We went through all the different clauses, and they gave us the assurance, and we have seen in the by-law that it doesn’t affect the athaan. They are concentrating on sections 22 and 23. They gave it to us in writing and we put out a joint statement to make it clear to our community that the athaan will be protected. Just to make sure, yesterday we called another meeting to ask if anything has changed, councillor Nqavashe is the chairman of the portfolio committee, and it is clear that nothing has changed, and the athaan will not be touched. (question: why would the GOOD party lash out at the city officials about the athaan then?) It is election time and it is unfortunate that the public are being misused, not just on this issue, but on other issues too.”

Fataar did, however, point out that there is one aspect that the MJC would like addressed. “There is one sticky thing that needs to be changed though, and we’ve got the commitment from Councillor Aslam Kassiem, and that is that we want the athaan out of the list of noise nuisances. It should not be classified as that. Again yesterday we took that commitment that this will be tabled at the council.”