- The Nelson Mandela Bay metro took a decision to close concrete braai facilities to break up gatherings at the beachfront.
- The bulldozer driver tried to barricade the entrance to the facilities with rocks, but improvised and demolished the braai stands instead.
- The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has called the move vandalism.
The Nelson Mandela Bay government is getting huge backlash after much-loved braai stands were demolished along Marine Drive in an effort to deter beachgoers and, as such, prevent Covid-19 spread.
On Friday, beachgoers clashed with law enforcement officers and lifeguards after they tried to break up large gatherings at beaches.
Amid clashes at various beaches, a municipal bulldozer emerged and flattened the concrete braai spots.
The decision to close the facility was taken by the metro's coronavirus command council and stake holders to save lives, said mayor Nqaba Bhanga.
The instruction from the command council was for the driver of the bulldozer to flood the entrance to the facility with rocks as a barricade.
Bhanga revealed that, when the driver noticed it was not working, he improvised by demolishing the braai stands and then used that material for the barricade.
The mayor defended the driver, saying he only demolished braai stands which were already ailing.
He added that the city was planning to give the area a facelift anyway.
Bhanga said the action had to be taken to prevent any possibility of infections due to lawlessness taking place in the area.
He said initially a fence was erected at the area to keep people at bay, but it was removed.
Bhanga said 5 000 people flocked to Hobie beach over the weekend, and they were not wearing masks or social distancing.
"There was no concerted effort to destroy the braai stands. That place is not suitable to host people anyway because there are no ablution facilities. We need to close that facility properly. The driver made an alternative plan," said Bhanga.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber (NMBBC) has called the action vandalism of municipal property.
The ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay said: "[As] the ANC, we will never sit by and watch the DA disrespect and make a mockery of the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, with their autocratic leadership style and selfish interests, which has been clearly displayed with the demolishing of municipal property in the form of the braai stands along Marine Drive last week," said regional task team coordinator Luyolo Nqakula.
The CEO of NMBBC, Nomkhitha Mona, said the chamber noted, with great concern, the increased number of reports on the rampant theft and vandalism of infrastructure.
Mona said the demolished beachfront facilities have been a longstanding symbol of how citizens could enjoy the beautiful lifestyle offered by the city's amenities.
"This flies in the face of development and progress. Instead of destroying property, the city should be building facilities for the enjoyment of both the citizens and tourists," said Mona.
"What is the difference between the vandals and the metro decision-makers? If this is the blueprint and example the city leaders have to offer, then woe unto all of us.
"Somebody in that meeting should have stopped this irrational decision. This obsession with trying to control people's behaviour because of Covid-19 has to come to an abrupt end," said Mona.
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