Where does South Africa’s supply of fireworks come from?
China remains one of South Africa’s biggest sources of fireworks, with 55 consignments imported in 2005—roughly almost four million kilograms of fireworks. This figure dropped by more than 400 000kg compared with the previous year.
Fireworks are controlled by the SAPS in terms of the Explosives Act of 1956. However, in 2003 President Thabo Mbeki approved a new Explosives Act, which will only come into effect after the approval of new explosives regulations—still in draft format.
“With the new legislation we intend to limit consumer fireworks [for public use] to more safe and sane and less noisy items,” he says. “Improved control at fireworks importers will ensure that only approved items will be available to the general public. More severe legal measures and penalties will act as a deterrent to sell fireworks illegally.”
People who contravene the Explosives Act and its regulations can be charged and have their stock confiscated. After a fine is paid, the confiscated fireworks are usually returned to the owner because it is not an offence to possess fireworks.
There are only 13 licensed wholesale dealers and 13 firework importers registered with the SAPS explosives unit. Importers supply the wholesalers, who unpack the fireworks and sell it to a retailer—which is what we see on display in stores, says Van Staden
‘Safe and sane’
Lynn Kennedy, of the Pyrotechnic Guild of Southern Africa, says: “There are two distinct groups of fireworks. One is for consumers and the other is for licensed, qualified pyro-technicians, who are registered and known to the chief inspector of explosives.
“I am of the opinion that only fireworks that are ‘safe and sane’ should be made available to the general public. In other words, fireworks that are pretty and that do not make a loud noise. No one objects to sparklers, Christmas crackers or items that just sparkle.
“Some fireworks that have been imported have not been subjected to strict quality control—with the result that they do not always perform in the same way.”
Kennedy says: “Items like man crackers, cherry bombs, match crackers, Indian kings and so on do not comply with the law, in my opinion, and do explode violently. They should never have and still should not be made available to Joe Public.”
Crackers consist mainly of black or flash powder that is wrapped in paper and initiated by a fuse. Not only are they dangerous, but many animals are petrified by the noise that crackers make and some are seriously injured during religious holidays and the festive season.
Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar, spokesperson for the Johannesburg metro police, says Johannesburg’s city by-laws only allow the public to burst fireworks on 10 holidays during the year. These include Guy Fawkes, New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Diwali and the Chinese New Year. “People then cannot complain,” he says.
However, fireworks can still be lit throughout the year. “If it causes a disturbance, then it’s contravening the by-law,” says Minnaar. Source input: Mail & Guardian