Meeting to discuss armed force event

The planned Armed Forces Day has come under heavy fire from residents of Muizenberg who have planned protests and want to put a stop to the night shoot.

In the days since last week’s story in the Echo (“Armed Forces display concern”, Echo, January 31), concern has turned to outrage as more residents have become aware of the plans to shoot missiles and heavy artillery from Sunrise Beach, drive tanks onto the ecologically sensitive dunes, have flare drops and aircraft fly-overs. There is a military contingent of about 200 members expected at the event, on Tuesday February 19.

Animal welfare, noise disturbance and concerns for the environment top the list of bug-bears from residents who are angry that there was no public participation beforehand.

The City, however, said planning for the event had been done by the book.

Those who have taken to social media to voice their upset, believe the event is a waste of tax-payers money and while most residents have said they are not averse to the military, they are against the event being held in a suburban area alongside nature reserves and wildlife.

Resident Karen Ellis Brown said on Facebook that her home was close to a nature reserve where a mongoose family had just settled.

Jo Bosman has been in communication with the SPCA and other animal welfare organisations, and the issue was discussed on radio with local environmental activist Kevin Rack talking on behalf of many in Muizenberg, as well as representatives of the SANDF and the City of Cape Town.

Ms Bosman said that by allowing this event to go ahead in a densely populated residential area, causing excessive noise
and distress to animals, the SANDF and City of Cape Town will be in contravention of the Animal Protection Act 71 of 1962 (as amended), in particular Section 2.

This section, among other things, states that any person who: “overloads, overdrives ill-treats, neglects, infuriates, tortures or maims or cruelly beats, kicks goads or terrifies any animal; or … causes any unnecessary suffering to any animals, will be subject to the provisions of this Act and any other law, be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding R4 000 or in default of payment imprisonment for
a period not exceeding twelve months or to such imprison-
ment without the option of a fine”.

Resident, business owner and actor David Muller will be applying for a permit to gather people to form what he calls a peaceful protest along Royal Road,
Axminster and Sunrise Circle on the day of the event, with placards. He suggests the placards from protesters remain peaceful to make their point that this is a peace-loving community.

Of the rumblings, he himself has heard, that some residents are planning to paddle into the water to prevent the shooting, he said: “Regarding those who want to protest from the sea: they stand in the same danger as the seals, dolphins, whale sharks and jelly

“We are not at war so we don’t need this kind of practise. What we do need is a caring serving empathetic military who know what is needed among our communities,”he said.

“They are a service to South Africa. We need to sit in a circle with leaders of our communities and discuss further ways of making sure that guns are not required especially those that make loud sounds.”

The first face-to-face meeting between residents and SANDF was planned to take place at Muizenberg High School on Wednesday night February 6 – after this edition went to print. The outcome of this will be reported on next week.

Gregg Oelofse, in charge
of coastal management in the City’s environmental management department, said the SANDF had presented the event details to the Fish Hoek Sub-council on Monday January 21.

He said while an environmental impact assessment (EIA) had not been required for the Armed Forces Day event, the SANDF had submitted a comprehensive environmental management plan (EMP) which had “received comment from various City departments”.

“The EMP puts in place a range of actions and measures to ensure that the event is sustainable, safe and that environmental concerns are addressed,” Mr Oelofse added.

He said the discharge of munitions was entirely different from that of fireworks and needed to be assessed against a different set of considerations.

“In addition to this, a key priority for the night shoot was to make the event as widely accessible to the broader public as possible. Sunrise Beach was deemed the most appropriate location from which to achieve this goal within a wider set of considerations,” he said.

Ward councillor Aimee Kuhl added that the SANDF had followed all relevant regulations for the application of an events permit with the City of Cape Town and that they had also followed all regulations with regards to the environmental impact assessment to meet City and Provincial level guide-

Mario Finnis, project coordinator of the directorate for safety and security, said his office could confirm that the SANDF was in constant contact with the relevant City role-players regarding their plans.

“A public meeting was called for Wednesday at Muizenberg High School to further address the concerns raised. For the record and information, the City has not granted an events permit yet as the process is still ongoing,” he said.