Friday the 23rd of August the Mail and Guardian published an article which highlights the battle between the city of Cape Town and Skateboarders and Graffiti artists. The article titled iKapa boards up the long street to freedom received a variety of responses from the prominent business people and young people alike.
Skateboarding and graffiti are regulated by the Cape Town through two provincial legislative enactments, The so-called 2007 nuisances by law. In terms of these bylaws the two activities have been declared to be a nuisance, attracting criminal sanctions unless they are conducted with the direct consent from the city.
The graffiti bylaw has ostensibly been promulgated to eradicate gang graffiti from the visual landscape of the city by introducing a complex permit process for artists who wish to paint. The artist requires the permission of the property owner and his or her neighbours, along with a motivation and a sketch. However, the city has the right to deny permission without providing an indication of the grounds on which its decision is based.
A first time offender is liable to a fine of R15000 or six months imprisonment, convicted for a second offence and you will be labile to a fine of 30000 or six month imprisonment. Cape Town is the only city in South Africa to have specifically enacted legislation to control graffiti
In October last year, after extensive lobbying, the collective managed to convince the city’s transport authorities to lift the ban for four month on all forms of no motorised transport on the sea point promenade. During this time the collective launched the promenade Monday campaign under the share the space slogan.
Although both graffiti artist and the city seems to agree that safety and the eradication of gangsterism are important goals however, the point of disagreement is in assessing the harm caused in pursuit of these goals.
The question the article asked is whether the right to freedom of expression is adequately protected or does the by law constitute an unjustifiable limitation of this right? however we should consider whether crime and gangsterism could be reduced without making dramatic incursions into the artistic world.
When skateboarders and graffiti artists are being criminally charged at the whim of a citizen who calls a hotline to complain, the battle lines seem clearly drawn. The question is; who has the right to determine the use of public spaces?