2016 fireworks as bad as ever

From left: Ricardo Kamfer, Seveque Terblanche, Sabestian Fortein, Craven Kriga and Chrystal Booysen. Photo: Out There Communications

KNYSNA NEWS - Not one fireworks incident reported to the police and one unclaimed animal taken to Knysna Animal Welfare Society (KAWS) initially created an impression that last year's use of fireworks in Knysna may have been less than in previous years – but it turns out the 2016 holiday season's use of fireworks was as bad as ever.

The ban on fireworks followed a resolution adopted by the Knysna municipal council in 2004 prohibiting the discharge of fireworks anywhere within Greater Knysna, and the message was widely disseminated before the 2016 holiday season.
 
Following a story in the Knysna-Plett Herald last week reflecting only the experience of Knysna SAPS and KAWS, the municipality have since issued a press release that shows fireworks were definitely a problem.
 
Not only that, but when the story went online (www.knysnaplettherald.com) there was a backlash from many people in the community who had had bad experiences with fireworks this year.

Some of the comments read: "Who are they kidding? There were bigger bangs and more fireworks than ever this year." Judy Harrison wrote on Facebook:"The fireworks displays were the biggest we have seen in Buffalo Bay." Ulu Ludwig wrote: "Seems Sedgefield doesn't fall under Knysna. The fireworks here were much worse than last year."

There were more, such as by Louise Huisamen who wrote: "What a joke!!! Opening cases doesn't change anything.
 
The same situation will happen next year… and the next." Richard Court said on the Knysna-Plett Herald Facebook page that fireworks were all over Knysna the night of December 31.

In a press release, the Knysna municipality said, "Despite almost 13 years of constant reminders, many residents and visitors still did not adhere to this bylaw, resulting in near lawlessness on many of Greater Knysna beaches and residential areas. Acting municipal manger Johnny Douglas commented, “The utter disregard of the law was quite shocking. Our law enforcers fined 30 stores/traders and also confiscated their wares in the days leading up to the New Year's celebrations. Despite this, visitors and residents still ignored the fact that, by law, no
fireworks are allowed to be discharged anywhere in Greater Knysna.”

Although no statistics are available on how many broke this law, there is a general perception that there was an increase in the setting-off of fireworks at Leisure Isle, Buffels Bay and Cola beaches this year, said a statement from the municipality.
 
"Our law enforcement department is already busy working on a strategy to combat this serious problem. Residents and visitors to our towns must realise that it is illegal to set off fireworks at any time of the year, not only during New Year's celebrations,” Douglas said.

"The Western Cape Provincial Gazette, 7338 of 5 December 2014, Part I, Public Nuisances – Behaviour and Contact 2.1 (s), clearly states: 'No person shall discharge any fireworks, firearm, and airgun or air pistol on any premises or in any street or public place.”

Douglas said he would like to thank the many residents and visitors who assisted law enforcers in informing others of the illegality of fireworks and reporting traders and stores illegally selling these. "I can assure all that we are already planning for the end of 2017 so that we do not have a repeat of this lawlessness,” said Douglas

Knysna police spokesperson Sergeant Chris Spies said the policing of fireworks was very difficult in Knysna due to sporadic incidents. He reiterated that the police and other law enforcement agencies were deployed in problematic areas in their efforts to curb the use of fireworks.
 
"The police do respond to all complaints reported, but not one single incident of a reported firework problem was reported, despite the police being alert and on standby (not just ignoring them, as suggested on social media)," said Spies. "It is a known fact that people do use fireworks in their gardens and at home in the Greater Knysna area illegally, but unless we are alerted to a specific problem or incident we would not be able to respond.”

Despite the new information from the municipality (which came following the first article) Spies explained the difficulty the police faced at the time the article was written. “The police only deals with reported cases and no case was opened with regards to this matter.”
 
Spies said the police also noted the Facebook comments and concerns from the public with regard to this matter. “Their valued inputs will be considered when we do our planning for future operations,” he said.
 
KAWS had a significant number of calls during the night, but no follow-ups the following day – and one unclaimed dog the following day.

This dog, they say, may well not be a pet that ran away because of fireworks, but the photo of it has been placed on the KAWS Facebook page.

KAWS gets anything from one to five injured or stray animals being brought in every day of the year and this pattern has not changed during the festive season.

One dog was run over and this may have been caused by fireworks – but KAWS cannot be sure.

If readers were offended by the word ONLY one dog, we apologise, but the word only was intended to imply that in previous years more than one animal died or was injured as a direct result of fireworks.

To Simon Warren, who commented on Facebook, "Knysna-Plett Herald reports are dodgy," may we just reply. At the time of going to press last week we had requested comment from the municipality, but had a one-day deadline, which they could not meet because of doing their research before issuing an in-depth and accurate release.

The only indicators we can work on are from hard facts, which was all we had at the time. Thank you to all the people who contributed on Facebook showing us that we were indeed unaware of the overall severity of the problem, and the Knysna municipal press release also now puts the problem into perspective.
 
 
Some of the fireworks that were confiscated. 
 
 
From left: Ricardo Kamfer, Seveque Terblanche, Sabestian Fortein, Craven Kriga and Chrystal Booysen. Photo: Out There Communications 
 
 
 ARTICLE: ELAINE KING, KNYSNA-PLETT HERALD EDITOR
 
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