Those lighting fireworks on New Year’s Eve require advance police or local authority permission and need to tell their neighbours, or they face arrest and prosecution for making a public nuisance.
They can be made to pay a level 5 fine or be jailed for six months, police have reminded would-be noisy merrymakers. According to the law, the person must seek permission from their local authority if they wish to let off fireworks in an urban area.
If they fail to get this, they can be charged for creating a public nuisance under Section 46 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.
The Third Schedule of that Act lists the public nuisances, and number 2(C) is: “Without the permission of the appropriate authority, makes a fire or lets off fireworks manufactured for the purpose of amusement, in a public place.”
Fireworks have become popular in Zimbabwe at New Year’s Eve in recent decades, although in colonial time the British November 5 was more common, and the police are worried that many people, especially children who seem to be given these with negligible supervision, do not know how to use them safely.
Firecrackers have fuses and are wrapped in heavy paper casing that contains the explosive compound. While firecrackers are popular, those lighting them need to know what they are doing, and be sober, and there must be close adult supervision when children use them.
In an interview yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said anyone found on the wrong side of the law risks being arrested and prosecuted.“The law is very clear. Anyone who wants to use fireworks must notify the police in advance and get the necessary clearance.
They should also notify their neighbours well in advance. These are dangerous and may lead to serious harm. In recent years, we have dealt with cases in which minors have been seriously injured; and we are trying to avoid this,” he said.
In general, police are not trying to kill New Year parties and celebrations, but they want everyone to have fun peacefully and avoid engaging in violent and disorderly activities.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police will be on high alert to thwart illegal activities. Besides the danger to people and property, firecrackers cause confusion, anxiety and fear in the lives of animals, causing many to run away from their homes into the streets, which is dangerous to members of the public as they can get injured due to bites and accidents. It has been proven that the noise and unpredictability of fireworks leads many dogs to perceive them as a threat.
This triggers their fight-or-flight response. Fire crackers lead to dogs showing signs of anxiety, restlessness, panting, pacing and whining. In the past, there have been reports of people who have faced health and other dangers caused by firecrackers. Thus, this measure is for the people’s best interests.
Reports have shown that some children have even lost their eyes as they were using these fire crackers.
In December 2012, a 13-year-old Masvingo boy died after being seriously injured in a suspected firecracker accident. The teenager died after sustaining injuries on his face. Another child, Nyashadzashe Mungwage (10) from Gweru was on December 24, 2011 reportedly injured on the eye by firecrackers in another incident, which highlights the dangers of fireworks.
On New Year’s Eve in 2011 again, a Harare toddler, Tanaka Masanga, met a similar fate when he lost his left eye after a firecracker lit by his peers exploded in his face.
A Harare resident Mr Tanyaradzwa Risinahama said he was not aware that it was an offence to use firecrackers without police clearance. “All along we have been buying our children these firecrackers but never knew that it was an offence,” he said.
Another resident, Ms Sucess Simanga hailed the move by the police to ensure that people must follow the law when using firecrackers. Mr Eddie Nechibvute of Ruwa said he has also been concerned about children using firecrackers especially during the night.
“Most of these children and even adults have not been cautious about using them. Some of them can even throw them inside people’s yards and homes . . So I think the police should make sure that they are not used at all as they are a danger to other people and even those using them,” he said.
A Chitungwiza woman who preferred anonymity said although she had witnessed a neighbour’s child losing his eye some few years back, she had continued buying her children firecrackers as they enjoyed using them during this period.