Cape Town – The Western Cape High Court has dismissed an application by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA to halt a fireworks display at the V&A Waterfront on New Year’s Eve.
The ruling by Judge Lister Nuku was handed down yesterday after an explosive hearing where the legal representatives of the animal welfare organisation outed the City as a sponsor of the event.
This comes just weeks after the management of the popular tourist attraction announced their plans to host a five-minute fireworks display to ring in the new year amid an uproar from the SPCA and other organizations.
Addressing the court on Friday, as they sought an interim interdict to halt the fireworks display, advocate Shaina Naidoo said the SPCA had a constitutional right to oppose the plans as they were the custodians of animals who could not speak for themselves.
She highlighted that the court needed to make a ruling as to whether the commercial benefits outweighed the environmental impact on wildlife in and around the harbour.
Naidoo stunned the court when she revealed that the City had coughed up R500 000 to sponsor the event.
She labelled the process for the permit as “fundamentally flawed”, saying the municipality had a vested interest in seeing the event go ahead.
“They (the City) have upheld the appeal by the V&A because they don’t want to lose their money. They have a vested interest, its a conflict of interest and they could not have reviewed their own decision.”
In response, advocate Nick de Jager, for the City, said Naidoo’s argument held no water saying the sponsorship would not deter officials who approved the application from doing their duties.
He said the money would go towards the erection of stages, screens and audio equipment for live performances.
“It simply doesn’t follow that because the City has played a role to advance a particular matter that other departments in the City can’t properly carry out their functions of oversight. The response to the second complaint about bias is that if there are no fireworks, the event is still going ahead. It is not reasonable to say that because there is this sponsorship that the City is going to do whatever it can to push through fireworks. There is no evidence of this and the City denies it has acted this way.”
Advocate Andre Oosthuizen, for the V&A, said the application should not be viewed as urgent as the organisations had become aware of the permit application on December 5 but had only instituted action on December 22.
SPCA lawyers said they made several attempts to reach an agreement and the permit was only granted by the City on December 11, then retracted and subsequently reissued this week ,leaving them no other option.
Judge Nuku dismissed the application and said he would give his reasons at a later stage.
SPCA chief inspector Jaco Pieterse said: “We are very disappointed, especially that the justice system has failed the animals we serve and protect. We will have to put teams on standby to assist any animals injured and displaced but we are also considering, along with our legal team, a further review on the process followed by the City.”