Johannesburg: There will be a single site for bursting crackers in Cape Town this Diwali, an official said, as the city's municipal authorities backed down on a last week decision to not have designated places to set off fireworks.
The change of decision comes after members of the Hindu community and the South African Hindu Maha Sabha (SAHMS) threatened to take legal recourse.
Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Cape Town, J P Smith, announced that a special area will be set aside at a stadium to allow people to set off fireworks.
The authorities had initially said there would be no firework sites for Diwali and Guy Fawkes Day, which is a few days after the festival of lights, as well as on New Year's Eve.
Cape Town is the oldest city of the country and the seat of Parliament.
"We were set to legally challenge the decision to not have any places to set off fireworks because it would have violated the right to equality and freedom of religion, which are guaranteed in sections 9 and 15 of the Constitution," SAHMS president Ashwin Trikamjee said.
Bursting crackers is strictly regulated across South Africa and permits are required for public displays in areas such as parks and streets.
In Durban, which houses the largest concentration of Indian-origin residents in the world, a commission has endorsed a call for urgent dialogue to avoid the situation that arose in previous years when racist altercations between Hindus celebrating Diwali and white residents ended up with the latter being fined by the Equality Court for offensive remarks against Hindus.
The call was endorsed by the Statutory Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. Trikamjee termed the move as a step towards improving tolerance between communities.
The double celebrations of Diwali and Guy Fawkes Day regularly have other communities up in arms over impact of fireworks.
But none of this has deterred the Hindu community in South Africa and their supporters. Communities will flock to mass public celebrations of Diwali starting this weekend.
One the events will be hosted by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini at his residence in rural Nongoma, in association with the Sivananda Word Peace Foundation headed by philanthropist Ishwar Ramlutchman.
Ramlutchman, who is the only Indian who has been anointed as a Prince of the Zulu Kingdom, said the programme, aimed at social cohesion, will incorporate traditional Zulu and Indian dance and song.