Butt out

Butt out

15 March 2006

published by www.capetimes.co.za

South Africa — The publishing for comment yesterday of a new city bylaw which will see those responsible for tossing cigarette butts out of car windows whacked with a hefty fine is good news for Cape Town. But will it have teeth?

In terms of the proposed legislation, the owner of a car, and not the driver or passengers, will be liable to a fine of up to R2 000 – four times that for jumping a red traffic light and R1 700 more than for jumping a stop sign.

The proposed bylaw states that “it shall be presumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that such action was performed by the owner of the vehicle”.

Since it is all too often the drivers of commercial vehicles who are the worst offenders – as any Cape Town driver will testify – this is welcome news. It also puts the onus on vehicle owners to ban smoking in their vehicles lest they be held liable for the actions of another driver.

Equally welcome is the proposed new bylaw which would make it compulsory for any owner of property which is heavily vegetated to construct and maintain adequate firebreaks which would “ensure that the risk of a vegetation fire arising on or spreading from one premises to the next is minimised”.

But again, will these bylaws have teeth? They will have to be read in conjunction with the National Veld and Forest Fire Act. In terms of this act, a landowner who fails to clear alien vegetation on his or her land, and on whose land a fire then starts, is liable to not only the firefighting costs, but also for damages to neighbouring properties.

And yet, there has, to the best of our knowledge, never been a successful prosecution in terms of this legislation. The two Western Cape attempts to prosecute landowners under this legislation both failed to make it to the trial stage after pre-trial manoeuvring.

So, while we welcome the new bylaws on stubbing out stompie chuckers, and the provisions on the compulsory building of firebreaks, we trust that the law enforcement agencies will be given sufficient muscle to enforce them.

Otherwise they will, like so many before them, simply end up in the ashtray of history.


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