The City of Johannesburg has come under siege by members of the outdoor advertising industry who continue to illegally erect advertising boards and signs across the City while deliberately disregarding the applicable by-laws.
Over the years, this problem has only worsened and outdoor advertising companies continue to act as if they are untouchable. I am sure residents remember the countless billboards across Johannesburg with images of the former Mayor of Johannesburg in desperate attempts to depict a “World Class African City”. One can only assume this abuse of public resources for self-gratification contributed to this escalating problem.
The implementation of the City`s operation to restore the rule of law in Johannesburg, Buya Mthetho, will now be extended to illegal outdoor advertising in order to ensure that media owners act responsibly and the companies booking space on any advertising signs do so by first ensuring that the sign on which an advertisement is booked has been approved by the City.
The outdoor advertising industry in Johannesburg is regulated in terms of the Outdoor Advertising By-Law (2009). Section 3(1) of the By-Law states that no person may erect any advertising sign or use or continue to use any advertising sign or any structure or device as an advertising sign without the prior written approval of the Council.
The flagrant disregard for this law is not only resulting in an eyesore around Johannesburg, but is also placing the lives of residents and motorists at risk.
There are many factors contributing to the urgent need for the City to address this lawlessness:
• The safety of motorists is at risk due to the erection of various signs within prohibited areas of traffic intersections which results in illegal signs obstructing traffic signs and thereby endangering motorists’ line of sight. This practice also hampers the ability of pedestrians to carefully observe traffic when they are walking next to roads or attempting to cross roads.
• In addition to the above point, there is a heightened risk of road accidents and fatalities due to motorists being distracted by electronic signs and other large format signs that are competing with motorists’ line of sight.
• Reckless outdoor advertising companies are digging municipal road reserves to erect illegal signs and loading signs on municipal bridges and street poles which results in the accelerated wear and tear of City assets and infrastructure.
• Some companies are illegally connecting to the City`s electricity to energise their signs.
• Illegal advertising has fuelled the loss of revenue to the City and the erection of illegal signs is resulting in undue enrichment by transgressors.
• Clutter and the proliferation of illegal signs depreciates property values.
• Large outdoor advertising companies who are breaking the law are also standing in the way of transformation in that new players are being obstructed from entering and competing in the market.
By not certifying the erection of signs and billboards, the structural integrity of them becomes questionable. There are cases where signs have fallen onto roads thereby endangering the lives of the motorists and pedestrians. The following incidents are cases in point:
• In 2015 a sign measuring over 13 meters high fell onto a van with the driver inside. The car was written off, but miraculously the driver escaped with minor injuries.
• A car smashed into an advertising trailer on Witkoppen Road and the driver was admitted to intensive care with life threatening injuries.
• A pedestrian was knocked down by a car on Grayston Drive due to an outdoor advertising sign obstructing a pedestrian walk.
• An illegal advertising board was blown onto the road by strong winds in Dunkeld and it was later established that the sign was not erected to withstand the said elements.
• An illegal sign was removed from site after it rusted and tilted near a very busy road in Sandton.
• A sign was illegally drilled onto a bridge near the Mall of the South resulting in the bridge cracking and needing major repairs.
It is clear that this lawlessness has to stop. This challenge is exasperated by a provision in the 2009 by-law which requires the City to obtain a court order before removing illegal outdoor advertising. Due to this complicated process, some companies in the outdoor advertising industry have taken advantage of delays in resolving these matters and have put their own self-enrichment and unlawful interests above those of the general public.
To date, the City’s efforts to ensure by-law enforcement and the continued improvement of compliance, have been largely ignored by the industry:
• The City has invited industry players to declare their portfolios so that signs that are not permissible may be removed in agreement with the media owners who own the signs. Such invitations have been ignored.
• The City has issued out Contravention Notices to transgressors in the industry which are being ignored.
• The City roped in the capacity of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department to monitor the illegal erection of signs. However, illegal signs are erected mostly at night and over the weekend with dubious characters playing “hide and seek” when spotted.
In our efforts to improve outdoor advertising in Johannesburg and bring an end to the rampant lawlessness, the City amended its 2009 By-Law in order to improve compliance and create a conducive environment for the industry to conduct business whilst protecting the general public from urban blight, clutter and the deterioration of municipal assets due to the illegal erection of signs.
The City’s new Outdoor Advertising By-Law is currently subject to litigation. The City has agreed to suspend the implementation of the new By-Law, pending the outcome of this litigation. This agreement has been made an order of court. In the interim, the City will continue to enforce the 2009 By-Law in its entirety.
I would also like to call on the private and public sector who make use of outdoor advertising boards to take a stand against this lawlessness by requiring outdoor advertising companies to provide them with proof that their boards are indeed legal and have been certified by the City. In addition, they need to check that any agreement with the City has not expired.
The City is currently locked in litigation with a large outdoor advertising company whose contract with the City has expired, yet they refuse to remove their signs despite receiving notice from the City.
Restoring the rule of law in Johannesburg requires us to all join hands and say enough.
Cllr Herman Mashaba
City of Joburg
For further information, please contact:
Director: Mayoral Communications
Office of the Executive Mayor
City of Johannesburg
Tel: 011 407 6727
Cellular: 076 171 5978