COMPLETE DISREGARD OF THE LAW
By: Bongani Gema
The constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996, section 24 states that everyone has the right (1) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and (2) to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. It is such beautiful acts enshrined in our constitution that are easily disregarded by common acts such as public smoking.
The court-yard of the Durban University of Technology’s City Campus is a perfect example of how the young, old, male and female casually smoke around their fellow students. Mthokozi Ngesi, a non-smoker said, “I’m very concerned about how students just smoke publicly without worrying about the possible danger this poses to those around them,” he said.
“This affects my comfort zone in a negative way because I find myself continuously having to move around especially since I suffer from sinusitus which responds negatively to cigarette smoke.”
Ngesi added, “Reserving a place for smokers and fining those who smoke outside their reserved space would curb this trend of public smoking at all the different campuses.” He believes that public smoking is a violation of his Human rights.
Sthembiso Ndlovu, a 1st year student at DUT’s ML Sultan campus said that even though he hasn’t experienced the same discomfort as Ngesi, he does however support smoking being restricted to certain zones.
“ML Sultan campus does have a smoking area in the cafeteria next to the library but on certain occasions they do not close the door properly causing smoke to spread outside their smoking zone.” Ndlovu said,
“I am aware that smoking is a violation of my human rights but I don’t have a problem against those who do smoke as long as they do so responsibly and are respectful of the rights of those around them.”
The Government legislation which prohibits public smoking states that the fine for any smoker lighting up in a non-smoking zone is R500, and yet Duma, who is aware of this legislation confirms that he will continue to smoke in public because, “ As far as I am concerned Steve Biko has not reserved an area for smoking,” stated Duma.
DUT’s code of conduct pamphlet reads, “According to Government legislation, smoking in public places is prohibited. This also applies to all DUT buildings, including DUT-owned or leased residences.”
The choice to smoke is a right which should be practised without violating the rights of those around you. Through negligence or ignorance of the law, some smokers at DUT campuses seem to overlook that obligation.