Illegal advertising – horror or something more sinister?

Driving on almost any street with a child of reading age means they are exposed to harmful or tasteless illegal advertisements offering services such as abortions, penis enlargements, love potions and more on the way to school.

Justin Jones, a real estate development consultant and former urban planner, believes that in addition to being an eyesore, these illegal ads harm communities in ways that aren’t always obvious to residents.

He said: “Guerrilla marketing and illegal advertising is a pandemic in the city and harms the residential amenity of neighborhoods. Communities need to be safe, secure, and not awash with crime, filth, and harmful publicity like the poster we’re on that offers 30-minute abortions.

Jones spoke about research conducted by Ruth Atkinson for GroundUP who contacted one of the abortion providers to investigate their legitimacy. She found that extremely harmful practices were taking place with pills given to pregnant women by people without medical training and for pregnancies often well beyond legal gestation for abortion.

Justin Jones stands outside a mini-substation on Mountainview Avenue in Northcliff with an illegal advertisement selling a 30-minute abortion. Photo: Emily Wellman Bain

The service provider she spoke to explained the procedure: “The woman had to take two pills orally and then insert four pills into her vagina. If there was bleeding, she should drink strong tea. He claimed that the pills were sold to him illegally by a hospital pharmacist.

Jones is a firm believer in the broken window theory, that a city that takes care of the little things, like illegal advertising, creates an atmosphere of order and legality.

The fact that most of these posters are posted on city infrastructure such as substations and streetlights shows that the municipality does not take bylaw violations seriously. Residents like Jones and many others are on a crusade to take down harmful ads and remove them when they can, but they need the city’s help.

This can still be seen when looking at the signage, much of which is now printed on more expensive plastic sticker paper, showing that the investment is worth the extra price for advertisers.

Illegal advertising has become so entrenched along Johannesburg’s busy roads, yet more than 78% of all road signs in the city are illegal, according to MMC for Corporate Services Leah Knott.

This means that the overwhelming number of posters, stickers and signs selling a service or product do not have the written or required approval from the city in terms of regulations.

Ward 88 Councilor Nicolene Jonker said she “hopes community members will submit comments on the proposed bylaw, which will go a long way to resolving the issue.”

If you would like to submit a comment on the draft outdoor advertising by-law which falls under Section 156 of the Constitution, copies will be open for viewing at city libraries, regional offices, and on the city’s website www. joburg.org.za

Written comments should be submitted by July 12, 2022 to [email protected] or at the Municipal Offices in Region B, 35 Symons Road, ACA Krans Building, Auckland Park.

Marilyn J. Hernandez