It is no secret that the Western Cape has some of the best beaches, with tourists flocking to the Cape over the festive season to take advantage of the good weather and several beautiful beaches for surfing, bathing and sun tanning.
But this season was very different.
With the second wave hitting the country rapidly, the call from president Cyril Ramaphosa to close the beaches in all hotspots saw the beaches in the province empty, with many adhering to the regulations.
This was a unique sight. During the festive season thousands flock to the beaches from as early as 05:00 and stay well into the evening, travelling long distances to enjoy a beach day. This meant no parking and not a patch of sand to lay a towel or blanket on the busiest days.
People’s Post spoke to locals on their thoughts especially in light of several days boasting 30 °C weather.
Madre Ockhurst says annually her family visits either Blouberg, Fish Hoek or Strand beach for a family day over the festive season.
“Even if it is windy, the family knows that we spend the day at the beach. We live near the beach and it is so hot. The water is a tease. So near but so far,” she says.
On Sunday 3 January, despite the 31 °C weather in Strand, the beach was completely empty except for an angler or two. The boardwalk, however was dotted with locals just looking at the beach.
Paul Fredericks from Eerste River says he visited the beach just to look at the water and enjoy the peacefulness of a beach walk.
“I want to put my toes in the sand. It is so tempting, but I know that the regulations are there for a reason,” he says.
His wife, Audrey, says they are part of the tradition of beach days and would leave home at 05:00 to be at one of the local beaches on their annual beach day, 26 December.
“We could be here at 06:00 and there would already be a lot of people. We don’t use the beach often, but now that we can’t we miss it even more. Beach day is a tradition and we had to miss it this year,” she says.
Another local, Jessica Williams and her boyfriend Brandon Isaacs were walking along the boardwalk.
“You never realise how much you miss something until you can’t have it. The beach is a great place to de-stress and the smell is invigorating. The sound is calming and the feeling of the sand leaves you refreshed. We can’t have the sand, but we can still enjoy the rest of the feeling walking on the boardwalk,” she says.
Community policing forum (CPF) chair for Strandfontein, Sandy Schuter Flowers says for the most part, the beaches have been quiet.
She says annually the CPF forms part of beach safety drives and campaigns because of the large number of people who flock to the beaches. As accredited safety volunteers, the CPF and neighbourhood watch continue to patrol the beach and coastal areas despite restrictions.
She confirms that on their patrols there are many who park at the beach and watch the waves while having something to eat.
“During the entire festive season in previous years, Strandfontein is frequently visited by thousands, especially on Boxing Day and New Years Eve or the second of Jan, we have a influx of people coming from all over,” she says.
“Beach patrols every day is important because when it’s quiet, it’s secluded and it can become an unsafe place. This is especially when you have opportunistic criminals that would turn a simple park-off just to watch the waves, into a hijacking or robbery at gunpoint, leaving victims traumatized. Even though this year was different, we still applied the same patrols as we would have if there were no restrictions.”
Fear of fines and even the possibility of arrest has many sticking to restrictions.
Police minister Bheki Cele has been seen at beaches all over the Western Cape in what has been dubbed “a single-minded obsession” with enforcing the restrictions, by provincial minister for community safety Albert Fritz. The heavy-handed approach has seen arrests of bathers, surfers and fines issued.
“The Western Cape government believes that the rule of law in South Africa must always be upheld, and the regulations must be enforced even if we disagree with them,” says Fritz, calling on Cele to fight crime as passionately as he is about “arresting surfers”.
“Of course, all regulations need to be enforced until otherwise struck down by a court of law, but it would do the national minster well to broaden his focus from beaches and also zone-in on the violent crime that many of our communities currently experience,” says Fritz.
The beaches are closed under lockdown level three restrictions which were implemented between Tuesday 29 December and Friday 15 January. The amended restrictions are set to be reviewed before this date.