Beach safety compromised

2015-08-26 06:00
eThekwini lifeguards have not been on duty since Friday, following a protest against their manager.
 Photo:FeverReporter

eThekwini lifeguards have not been on duty since Friday, following a protest against their manager. Photo:FeverReporter

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ETHEKWINI lifeguards have not been working since Friday. They stopped providing service in protest against beach office manager, Risky Gumede, and to demand better working conditions. According to a former employee, speaking on behalf of the lifeguards, they are reportedly being treated unfairly and being intimidated.

The former employee said the lifeguards issued complaints against Gumede­ and followed all the relevant channels to lodge their complaints to eThekwini, but have had no response. The lifeguards subsequently intend to stop their service until they are taken seriously.

Gumede has reportedly been removed from the Amanzimtoti office before after complaints against him some years ago. At that stage he was a superintendent. He however, returned to Toti after being promoted to manager.

According to the source, the lifeguards do not have lunch breaks and leave requests are not approved due to staff shortages. “There are a number of vacancies, which have not been filled,” the former employee stated.

No new lifeguard equipment has been bought since 2012 and the lifeguards do not have first-aid books. While there is no funding for equipment, last weekend Pipeline pool was upgraded with the erection of several security cameras. Reportedly a budget of R900 000 has been allocated to the manager.

The budget allegedly also does not allow the city to pay overtime and guards were reduced to one per beach as opposed to the Lifeguard SA requirement of four lifeguards per beach.

“This is putting the safety of the public at risk,” said the former employee.

According to the source, Gumede has not had a staff meeting in months, despite requests from the staff. Further grievances are that the manager is biased. “The lifeguards subscribe to two unions - those who are on the same union­ as the manager are not charged for misconduct, while workers with the other union are charged and prosecuted­.”

“We pay a lot of money to come here on holiday, so we have to take our chances and swim whether there are lifeguards or not,” said a tourist from Nelspruit on Friday.

“My first thought this morning was ‘where are the lifeguards?’. It makes me nervous that they are not here,” another tourist remarked.

Fever was unable to get comment from Gumede at the time of going to press

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