Pressing questions around the SANDF’s night shoot remain unanswered as Muizenberg residents dig in to fight it.
At the time of going to print, the City of Cape Town had still not issued the event permit.
The SANDF plans to hold the night shoot on Sunrise Beach on Tuesday February 19 (with a rehearsal the day before). Among other things, it will see artillery firing live ammo at floating off-shore targets, tanks on the beaches and fly-overs as part of a week of citywide events, billed as Armed Forces Day, from February 16 to 19.
With the military muscle flexing just days away, SANDF representatives Rear Admiral Sammy Matshimane, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kachelhoffer, and Lieutenant Colonel Lappies Laubscher tried to turn around Muizenberg residents’ opposition to the plan during a meeting at Muizenberg High School last Wednesday .
But only two of the 80-odd residents at the meeting spoke in favour of the event. Most were vehemently against it. Two girls, Lily Shaw and Sarah Truter, said they feared it would harm animals and the environment.
NormanGreenfield,of Fish Hoek, said just one of the weapons had a decibel reading of 165. He asked what the decibel levels would be with all guns blazing at once and what the legal decibel level was for somewhere with nature reserves and very young and old residents.
Mr Greenfield said it was clear the SANDF had flouted due process on public consultation because only Muizenberg residents were at the meeting.
The noise-exemption form for events required the applicant to obtain the signed agreement of surrounding residents, he said.
“The absence of organisations from St James and Kalk Bay shows that community representatives were not briefed, let alone their agreement sought,” he said.
Of note, he said, was that the event hosting application recognised the affected suburbs as Muizenberg, Strandfontein, St James and Kalk Bay.
Mr Greenfield asked whether the City and SANDF would bear joint responsibility for property damage or injury resulting from the shoot.
He urged the City not to grant permission for it.
“The SANDF and the City should produce a definitive study which shows that there is no risk to the surrounding suburbs. They can then communicate it to all registered organisations in Ward 64 and seek their agreement to a noise exemption,” he said.
Catherine Dillon, chairwoman of the Muizenberg Lakeside Ratepayers’ Association, said residents who had been at the SANDF presentation in sub-council earlier in the year had not been allowed to ask questions, and the City and SANDF had failed to communicate details of the event to the public.
David Muller shot down the SANDF line that the event would commemorate the sinking of the SS Mendi, saying his grandfather had been on the ship. Mr Muller said he did not believe mock war was a fitting commemoration of the lives lost at sea.
Environmentalactivist Kevin Rack stressed the protest was not against the SANDF but against the event and he accused the City of failing residents by not consulting with them.
Frances Lombard said the communities of Masiphumelele, Vrygrond, Overcome Heights, Pelican Park, Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha and Seawinds had been crying out for the army to protect them from rampant crime and gang violence.
“The City has been pleading. The province has been pleading. The SANDF has moved down 2 500 troops for this event. Are they – who you say are here to put up a row of guns and fire live ammunition for no real point – going to stay and help our people, and protect our citizens?” she asked.
“The point, you say, is to show people what you can do. Why don’t you show the people what you can do by helping our people? We have real problems and real wars. We need your help. We want you here. But not for this,” she said.
MsLombardsuggested moving the night shoot to Simon’s Town over a week-
Of the event, she said: “Hundreds of thousands of people can attend. And you cannot check all of them for weapons, alcohol, drugs and flares. You cannot mitigate any violence. You will hype them up with your guns. You will tell them to leave the beach at 9pm. They will not leave. You are confused if you think they will. They will be under the influence of alcohol. They will be under the influence of drugs. They will be armed. You are inviting war to our beach. We invite you, rather, to go fight the war that is happening every day in our communities.”
Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said the City still had to make a decision on whether to issue a permit. No special transport arrangements had been put in place.
“Members of the public are expected to act responsibly and make prior arrangements to get home after the event,” he said.