Outcry as residents lock up beach at night

2017-04-08 18:02

It’s not only potential nudists who are having problems accessing Mpenjati Beach at the Trafalgar Beach Reserve on KwaZulu-Natal’s picturesque lower south coast.

Lifeguards, fishermen and footballers using the beach for training at night have cried foul after finding that boom gates – illegally erected by the local ratepayers’ association and community policing forum to regulate access to and from the beach – have been locked at night.

Locals say the barriers, which they call “Trump gates”, were installed to keep them out.

Photo: South Coast Herald

The Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality has given the local businessman who installed the boom gates, André Janse van Rensburg, an ultimatum to remove them before council’s protection services tear them down. The council is also investigating how the boom gates, which were erected in October, got there in the first place.

Trafalgar, one of six beaches in KwaZulu-Natal with blue-flag status, hit the headlines last year after the local municipality amended its bylaws to allow a 500m stretch of it to be used by nudists.

But the plan was halted after a local lobby group laid a complaint with the Public Protector.

Last week at a council meeting, Ward 9 councillor Richard Nyembezi asked the public safety department how the gates got there.

“I raised the matter because I had received complaints from the guys who work at the beach as lifeguards, and from guys who are part of the football club from the townships,” he told City Press.

“There is a lot of crime in the area, but I have raised the issue in council as people say they don’t want the gate there because they see it as an act of racism that restricts their access to public facilities.

“The coach of the local team also complained that they had found the gate locked and they had also been chased out of the area. I have tried to talk to the people involved in putting up the gates, and asked the head of department why they were there. He says he didn’t know about it, but they have been there since before December. How could he not have been aware?” Nyembezi asked.

A resident, who asked not to be named, said they battled to get to the beach at night to fish.

“We can’t park here at night and have to leave our cars far away and they get broken into. They say this is to stop crime, but it makes things bad for us,” he said.

In its December newsletter, the Trafalgar Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association said the gates were installed because of the high crime rate – 82 crimes were reported in the area between June and December last year.

The newsletter said the gates were also aimed at preventing large crowds from “going to the beach, playing loud music, drinking alcohol, partying and making open braai fires wherever it pleases them”, and that the gates would be locked between 18:00 and 06:00.

Council spokesperson Simon April said the boom gate was installed without the municipality’s consent and its protection services would ensure Janse van Rensburg took them down immediately.

Janse van Rensburg, though, said the matter was being “blown out of proportion”.

“This was a combined effort by ratepayers and the sector policing unit,” he said. “It was not put up to keep anybody out. It is just to indicate that this is a danger zone.”

Janse van Rensburg said he was being targeted by the lifeguards because he was involved in arresting one of them.

“These allegations are hearsay. People can still go in and open and close the gate. The gate has never been locked. Nobody has been chased off the beach. I arrested one of the lifeguards in the case of a 15-year-old girl who was attacked and now they are coming with stories,’’ he said.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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