Cat Pritchard wrestles a few bylaws and finds she can still get them in a Half Nelson.


There is a graphic image (in the literal sense) of a sad dog at the entrance to Bakoven Beach. He’s slumped over with disappointment because he’s not allowed on said beach. By law. He needn’t be worried. This hangdog image is in stark contrast to the tail-wagging reality that can be found most sunsets on Bakoven beach by decree of their affluent owners who seem to float, like kelp, above the law, leaving the rest of us to doggy paddle around these social issues, lest we make any waves.


One man did. He struck out at a Labrador that had been barking at him on his SUP. People winced. Some muttered their disapproval into their beach towels, passing down their social judgement with averted eyes. As we do. He became the criminal, the dog owner the victim. No doubt these brave beach activists went home and vented their opinions through the anger management tool of choice – the online comments section. Yes “Opinionhated”, I’m talking to you.


Welcome to the watered-down world of the bylaws – weakling cousin to the real macho laws who know how to flex their legal muscle when the poo hits the statue. As it does. Even the liquor by-law seems to have lost its toxicity in recent months. I remember rushing from work to buy a bottle of wine only by to be greeted by a gate barring my entry into the world of drunken dinner parties. Were amendments later made or do some entrepreneurs just know how to set up shop between the law and its various drafts, subsections and definitions (how about a plain English bylaw please)? I won’t be filing a complaint. The alcohol bylaws were starting to feel like a hangover from the conservative apartheid days rather than a solution to a serious abuse problem.


The Joburg councillors must have been drunk or under the influence of a far more powerful drug (money) when they thought up their swimming pool by-law last year.


You can almost hear the slurred logic sloshing around in their brains:

Councillor 1: “What do most Joburgers have in common?

Councillor 2: Crime!

Councillor 1: No man, swimming pools. Let’s make everyone register their pools and get a certificate of compliance.

Councillor 2: Cool. I have a cousin who can do the compliance.

Councillor 1: Cool ‘cause I have a cousin who can print certificates like money!


In fact there’s always a hiccup with by-laws. It’s called enforcement. I suspect the City of Cape Town hasn’t been too successful enforcing its “five barks and you’re out” (six minutes of barking in an hour) by-law because I have a few persistent yappers who still call my road and their vocal cords home.


Some of the City’s newly proposed bylaws are so hip they’re trending. Like the one that will target e-hailing services like Uber – that hip San Francisco outfit that gives every university student with a car the licence to drive you around the bend with his tech startup ideas (another San Fran import). The law hasn’t been implemented yet but that hasn’t stopped the city impounding 30 Uber-affiliated cars for not carrying proper licencing. Sounds like the Western Cape Taxi council knows how to flex its muscle at least.


Personally, I would like to see some muscle being applied to direct marketers, who must live on another planet or they would know that just an average windy day turns their “special offers” and pamphlets for “eco-friendly products” into paper Frisbees that block our gutters and turn our bushes into branded Christmas trees. (It’s not like we have a recycling by-law to clean up the mess either.)


But lets not by-law ourselves into a nanny state and put Mary Poppins in charge. It’s just that without any foresight or insight we might end up like poor Joburg, still convincing itself that Ponte City, its 54-story cylindrical skyscraper (Africa’s first!), was a deliberate act of genius instead of the only way to get around a bylaw that required both kitchens and bathrooms to have a window. The solution?  A cylindrical middle finger to aesthetes the world over. Let that be a warning to you Cape Town.







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