Loud or vexatious behaviour, noise, breach of the peace

What do you do if your neighbour is unreasonable and refuses to tone down his stereo system or generally behaves in an obnoxious manner to you and your fellow neighbours.

In appropriate circumstances you may approach the court in order to obtain an interdict. This measure is expensive, complicated and sometimes slow. It is nevertheless the only route available in many instances. No matter what the type of nuisance, to be subject to injunctive relief, the interference with the property must be substantial and continuous. Above all else, our constitution values the right of people to the peaceful, uninterrupted enjoyment of their property.

The law does provide alternative options in certain circumstances.


Section 384 of the Criminal Procedure Act 56 of 1955 may be useful in cases of nuisance. This is a less complicated and cheaper method of obtaining a court order in the magistrate’s court to bind over a person disturbing the peace.

Section 384 – Binding over of persons to keep the peace

(1)  Whenever a complaint on oath is made to a magistrate that any person is conducting himself violently towards, or is threatening injury to the person or property of another or that he has used language or behaved in a manner towards another likely to provoke a breach of the peace or assault, then, whether such conduct occurred or such language was used or such threat was made in a public or private place, the magistrate may order such person to appear before him and if necessary may cause him to be arrested and brought before him, and thereupon the magistrate shall enquire into and determine upon such complaint and may place the parties or any witnesses thereat on oath and in his discretion may order the person against whom the complaint is made to give recognizances with or without sureties in an amount not exceeding R2 000 for a period not exceeding six months to keep the peace towards the complainant and refrain from doing or threatening injury to his person or property.

(2)  The magistrate may, upon any such enquiry, order the person against whom the complaint is made or the complaint to pay the costs of and incidental to the enquiry.

(3)  If any person after having been ordered to give recognizances under this section refuses or fails to do so the magistrate may order him to be committed to gaol for a period not exceeding six months unless such security is sooner found.

(4)  If the conditions upon which the recognizances were given are not observed by the person who gave the same, the magistrate may declare the recognizances to be forfeited and any such declaration of forfeiture shall have the effect of a judgment in a civil action in the magistrate’s court of the district.


If notified of a complaint, law enforcement officials will investigate and see how serious the situation is. If necessary, they instruct people to turn down their music and if the offenders do not comply, they can be fined between R200 and R1 000. In extreme cases, their equipment will be confiscated.

Prohibition of noise nuisance

No person shall operate or play a radio, television set, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, loudspeaker system or similar device that produces, reproduces or amplifies sound, or allow it to be operated or played so as to cause a noise nuisance;

Powers of a local authority

A local authority may at any reasonable time enter premises without prior notice to conduct any appropriate examination, enquiry or inspection as it may deem expedient thereon to take any steps it may deem necessary.


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