Many Cape Town suburbs have bits and pieces of graffiti on walls and buildings. Some range from childish defacing to off-putting images and content, others show amazing skill and application. They often appear to sprout up in the still of night, so the creators cannot be seen (or caught?). But are these necessarily illegal and how does our local authority deal with these?

The City of Cape Town’s 2010 Graffiti By-Law aims to regulate the display of graffiti and to restore ‘surfaces affected by graffiti’.

What is Graffiti?

‘Graffiti’, for purposes of the By-Law, refers to:
. ‘any inscription, word, figure (other than a figure indicating a street number), letter, sign, symbol, sketch, picture, drawing, mural or design’;
. applied to any natural surface or man-made surface;
. on any property;
. which is visible to a person from a public place; and
. has not been authorised by the City.

”Mural art” means art in the form of a painting, applied directly to a wall, fence or structure.

Disallowed without a permit

The By-Law prohibits anyone to apply graffiti in any street or other public place without a permit. The point of departure of the City of Cape Town (the City) City is that the existence of graffiti within the City’s area of jurisdiction is a public nuisance and is thus subject to removal in terms of the By-Law.

Section 9 of the By-Law deals with permits, allowable graffiti in other words . It permits graffiti (which will be visible to a person from a public place) where the artist has obtained the required permission from the City. An application for permission must be made in writing and must include:

. the intended size of the graffiti;
. the materials and implements to be used;
. an accurate likeness, illustration or depiction of the intended work;
. proof of the consent of the owner of the property and of others affected thereby; and
. motivation why the artist wants to create the work.

An applicant must be advised within 30 days after submitting the application of the outcome.

Designated areas

The By-Law also provides that the City may designate certain areas and spaces to be utilized for graffiti after consultation with the relevant communities and subcouncils. Anyone wanting to make use of these spaces for graffiti, still needs to obtain permission from the City and is also obliged
to remove the art or decorations after the expiry of a three month period (unless a three month extension has been applied for).

Property owner’s liability’

The person applying the graffiti may be ordered by the City to remove the graffiti and if this is not adhered to, the City may have it removed.
However, property owners should note that the By-Law also provides (in section 4) that if the City cannot identify the creator of the graffiti , it may serve a notice on the property owner requiring him or her to remove the graffiti.

Section 6 further lists the duties of owners as follows:

(1) Every owner and every occupant of property must, at all times maintain free of graffiti any wall, fence, building, structure or thing located on such property.
(2) Every owner of property must remove from that property any unsightly graffiti within 10 days of the owner becoming aware of the graffiti on his or her property. “

Who to go to

In terms of the Graffiti By-Law, an application for permission to apply graffiti can be made to
On the other hand, if you want to report illegal graffiti, you can contact or call 021 596 1999.
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021 673 4700

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