Lifesaving boss warns of 'recipe for disaster' at Cape beach after 3 drown in baptism ceremony

The conditions at Monwabisi beach in Cape Town are "a recipe for disaster", a lifesaving official said on Monday, after three people drowned over the weekend in a baptism ceremony gone wrong.

"It is one of the most dangerous beaches in South Africa," said Mziwoxolo Mayedwa, who heads up Monwabisi Surf Lifesaving and is chairperson of Lifesaving Western Province.

On the Western Cape government's website, it is noted that the beach was very dangerous for swimming, "partly because a breakwater that was constructed during the 1990s – to solve the problem of powerful waves and backwash in the tidal pool – has affected the currents moving along that stretch of coast".

St Paul's Apostolic Faith Mission Church officials conducted the baptism ceremony early on Sunday morning, before lifeguards started their shift, said City of Cape Town law enforcement inspector Wayne Dyason at the time.

"Something went wrong when they were in the water," he explained. 

The incident took place shortly before 08:00. Around nine lifeguards are usually on duty at that beach, but they only start at 10:00 on Sundays.

Two men who had been assisting the church's pastor were apparently swept out by rip currents, the Cape Argus reported.

Read: Three drown during Cape Town beach baptism

A member of the public, who went in to assist them, is still missing at sea.

The coastal resort of Monwabisi, which translates to 'bringing joy', mainly caters for the nearby residents of Khayelitsha.

"This beach needs extra attention and we need to look at extending the operating hours of lifeguards," Mayedwa told News24.

Western Cape police spokesperson FC van Wyk said an inquest was opened following the drowning of the men, all in their thirties.

"SAPS diving unit will resume the search this morning for his body."

Dyason, however, said the SAPS had indicated it would only do an aerial search with its helicopter on Monday morning, as the body could be anywhere due to tides and general sea conditions.

The City said 172 lifeguards would be on duty between 10:00 and 18:00, until the end of school holidays.

They would be at the following beaches: Kogel Bay, Harmony Park, Strand, Macassar, Monwabisi, Mnandi, Blue Waters, Strandfontein, Sunrise Beach, Muizenberg, Danger Beach, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, Hout Bay, Llandudno, Clifton 4th, Camps Bay, Milnerton, Melkbosstrand, Big Bay and Silwerstroom. 

Safety and security mayoral committee member JP Smith on Monday urged the public to only swim where lifeguards were present and to obey their instructions.

"We had a tragic incident at Monwabisi this weekend where three people drowned and we will do everything possible to prevent further incidents."

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