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Ward councillor compares taking down signs to rape

  • BabyYumYumkeepingare_26636
A Johannesburg ward councillor last week stunned two Jewish women when he compared the enforcement of by-laws to raping a woman. In two separate incidents, this councillor suggested that serving notice of taking down signs in a public space was akin to a man giving a woman notice before raping her.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Sep 05, 2019

“Let me put it this way, madam, a man does not give a woman notice before he rapes her,” are the words Amanda Rogaly recalls the councillor saying.

She and Dr Tracy Paiken were shocked by this unacceptable comparison which was made following their enquiries into the removal of outdoor signs by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) on Tuesday and Wednesday last week.

The comment was made in response to both women’s attempts to determine why they had not been served any prior notice of the removals in Waverley and Linksfield.

Rogaly, the founder of parenting portal BabyYumYum, expressed her dismay about what had happened – especially his comments – on Facebook last week.

Events began when Rogaly noticed that her corporate community clean up sign on the corner of Scott Street and Kenneth Road in Waverley had vanished. Rogaly pays R1 000 every month towards upkeep of the corner, and had the sign erected to promote her company’s community involvement in the area.

“I was driving my children to school, and saw that the signs were all gone,” she says. “Security guards there told me that they had tried to stop about 20 JMPD personnel who had arrived at 01:15 that morning to take it down. They had arrived in seven vehicles, declared the sign illegal, and dismantled it.”

Rogaly contacted several people in the hope of determining the whereabouts of her sign, including the JMPD and local ward councillors. A particular councillor provided some helpful information, but floored Rogaly and her staff when he made the unexpected comment.

“When we spoke to him, he gave us information about who we could speak to,” she told the SA Jewish Report this week. “He was very matter-of-fact, and then threw in the comment about rape. My staff member making the call was stunned. She didn’t know if she’d heard it correctly. We asked for a recording of the call, and found that was exactly what he had said.

“How can you liken sign removal to rape? My organisation is a community oriented one, which empowers women and children to stand up for their rights, and this man passes a comment like this? It’s uncalled for.”

Paiken recounts a strikingly similar experience. On Tuesday, neighbours from around her psychology practice at the Linksfield Medical Centre on Club Street said they heard what sounded like gun shots in the early hours of the morning. In fact, JMPD personnel had arrived, and removed the business signs of Paiken and her colleagues from the exterior wall of the medical centre.

“I was given a real run around as to who was involved,” she says. “I contacted the chief whip, the JMPD, and no one could tell me who had authorised the sign’s removal. I finally got through to the ward councillor, who told me that the signs were illegal.”

In addition to being questioned as to whether she was in fact a registered medical practitioner, Paiken was told that notice of removal of such signs was like indicating intention of rape. Moreover, even if the signs were inside her property, they would have been removed by force.

Paiken says her sign has been removed on a previous occasion, but in spite of making enquiries about how to remedy the situation, she has had no answer from the councillor. “These signs cost R2 500 each,” she says. “There are no answers forthcoming as to how we deal with this.”

The SA Jewish Report reached out to a number of parties in an attempt to clarify the nature of the by-laws in question.

According to the JMPD’s outdoor advertising unit, if an advertising sign is erected without the municipality’s approval, the unit is entitled to remove the advertisement unhindered.

David Fisher, the ward councillor for Waverley and surrounds (and not the aforementioned councillor), stressed that the removal of Rogaly’s sign needed to be addressed on two fronts: the rule of law, and the inappropriate comment.

“I’m concerned that a councillor could pass such a remark,” he says. “In light of what is happening in South Africa, such a statement is unacceptable, and has no place in such a context.”

Still, Fisher said that sign erection must be done according to the law, and consent applied for.

“Even if a sign is part of a campaign to uplift the community, it needs to fall within the law,” he said. “The corner on which the sign was located is a high-visibility location for advertisers, and there’s a commercial aspect that needs to be remembered. Citizens must remember that public spaces are for all, but are regulated by law.”

Abuse victim support centre Koleinu has expressed horror at the rape remark, and has called on the councillor to issue a full apology to all women in a country where rape and violence against women is endemic.

Says the organisation’s Rebbetzin Wendy Hendler, “Anyone who holds a public position such as this needs to be accountable for any statements he makes to members of the public whose best interests he should have at heart. He should be struck from his leadership role with immediate effect. This can’t go unchallenged.”

Both Paiken and Rogaly have yet to locate and identify their signs, and are waiting for answers from the JMPD and their local councillors. Rogaly expressed frustration over how the matter was being handled, saying that her effort to uplift the community was being met with insurmountable obstacles.

“As corporates, we try to do things for our communities, and it’s thrown back in our faces by the government and municipalities,” she says.

“They slap us over the wrist for doing good, and for promoting what we do. I’m not looking for free advertising, and had no idea this sign needed approval. There was no prior warning, and no mention of a fine.”

Jack Bloom, the Democratic Alliance’s Gauteng Shadow Health MEC, confirmed that DA Chief Whip Dr Kevin Wax was investigating the matter.

  • The SA Jewish Report chose not to disclose the name of the councillor in question, who was contacted a number of times for comment, but had not responded at the time of going to print.

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