South Africa's Cape Town city council's film permit office has been closed until further notice after six staff members were suspended pending an internal investigation into alleged irregularities in the issuing of film permits.

City of Cape Town spokesperson Charles Cooper said in a statement that the Cape Film Commission, jointly financed by the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City, had immediately taken over the responsibility to issue film permits to ensure an uninterrupted service to the film industry.

The Commission was established as an umbrella body for the promotion and development of the film industry across the province, which has become one of the most popular locations in the world for commercials and 'runaway' production of feature films.

Martin Cuff, the Chief Operational Officer of the Film Commission, said he had stepped in to provide permit services to the council at short notice and had now set up a streamlined system to the industry.

Cuff seemed to have foreseen trouble on the horizon when he told Screen International earlier this year, 'I believe that we have grown rapidly, and grown from a period without regulations, legislation or responsibility. Productions don't need to register in the Cape, there's no legal framework for enforcing permit rules and the permit offices have no control whatsoever over shoots on private property. As a result the city is struggling to cope. "

"Additionally, the concept of the Film Industry as a 'Cash Cow' is rife, and we are lobbying constantly for private and public bodies to retain reasonable price rises. For me it all points to one thing: we have to contract, consolidate and regulate, before we can even begin to think about expanding. Such consolidation will also allow us to effectively deliver black empowerment and training, and ensure the industry sheds its lily white image.'

The City said the suspension of the six staff members was without prejudice and no assumption had been made of their guilt or innocence as a result of the suspension.

John Boorman's film of Antjie Krog's award-wining novel Country Of My Skull set against the background of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche is currently prepping in the city and has reported no problems with regard to permits.