City of Cape Town, PPA 'sang from the same hymn sheet' on Clifton saga

Security officers on the beach. (Supplied by PPA)
Security officers on the beach. (Supplied by PPA)

Private security company Professional Protection Alternatives (PPA) and the City of Cape Town "sang from the same hymn sheet" on Monday when they made presentations to Parliament on what transpired at Clifton Fourth Beach on December 23.

The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs conducted an inquiry, where both the City and PPA's representatives said the use of private security in the area was due to a rise of crime there and the understaffed police's inability to deal with it. Both the City and PPA said the incident was not racist and that beachgoers were advised to leave the beach and were not removed. They also decried the "politicisation" of the event and criticised the media.

Their presentations also included the same photo of the beach at around 20:30 on December 23, indicating that there still were people on the beach.

Committee chairperson Phillemon Mapulane remarked on the "coincidences" in the City's and PPA's presentations, saying it seemed as if they "sang from the same hymn sheet".

Cape Town's mayoral committee member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien, who represented mayor Dan Plato at the meeting, "categorically" denied that they were in cahoots with PPA and said they had not met to discuss their presentations.

After some questions from Mapulane, it was determined that the same photo used emanated from a CCTV camera of one of PPA's clients, who provided it to PPA. PPA provided it to a member of the media, and that was where the City found it.

'No record of any reported rape'

Major General Jeremy Vearey, deputy provincial commissioner for crime detection, said it was illegal for a private citizen's camera to film a public space.

In the days after the incident at Clifton Fourth Beach made headlines, PPA said a 15-year-old was raped at the beach. 

Major General Hendrik Burger, deputy provincial police commissioner for human resource management, said: "The police has no record of any reported rape that happened in Camps Bay [police precinct, which includes Clifton]."

He said there was an incident involving family members, but they opted not to open a docket.

"That incident could in no way be interpreted to be a risk to other people," Burger said.

Vearey elaborated that it was an attempted rape, the community took control there and stopped it from happening and took the man to the police station.

Vearey added that he was on duty that weekend, had a look at the incidents reported, and could not find any support for the "anarchic behaviour" which would apparently have necessitated closing the beach.

He said, apart from the events of December 23, the police were investigating two charges of assault where members of PPA accosted beach umbrella vendors.

Chris Diedericks of PPA said he had received the news during a meeting that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) withdrew the assault charges.

Vearey said they were also investigating a fraud charge laid by the City, saying PPA misrepresented the facts by stating that the City asked them to ask people to leave the beach.

No contract 

Both Diedericks and the City confirmed that there was no contract between the City and PPA.

Diedericks said they were contracted by residents. Some of their properties are adjacent to the beach.

"Why now is our presence a problem? Why is it politicised and racialised?" he said, adding that the law enforcement authorities failed to provide security to residents.

He said PPA staff were "merely informing" the beachgoers of criminal activities.

He also said PPA's actions were not unlawful or discriminatory and PPA should be "applauded for going above and beyond their duties".

Mapulane questioned him about why their staff were on the beach - a public space - and under whose authority.

"It's under the authority of our clients,"  Diedericks said, before taking out a handkerchief to wipe his face.

Members of the Camps Bay Ratepayers Association and Clifton Bungalow Owners Association confirmed that their organisations did not have contracts with PPA.

Camps Bay Community Policing Forum chairperson Bernard Schafer said they have seen a "slow decline" in policing in the area and a corresponding rise in crime. He said the residents of the "liberal Atlantic Seaboard" were very much opposed to apartheid.

Seehaam Samaai, a lawyer and a director of the Women's Legal Resource Centre, was at the beach when the incident occurred, along with her daughter, in a party that included Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs.

'No private police force on our beaches'

She took umbrage that she was accused of politicising what she described as "the systemic discrimination and spatial injustices on the Atlantic seaboard".

"The beach is our national asset. It belongs to everybody," she said.

"There should be no private police force on our beaches."

While she spoke, Mapulane asked Caroline Knott, an adviser to Plato, to keep quiet and stop making gestures while Samaai spoke.

Knott wanted to know why, and Mapulane asked her to leave. She refused, and Mapulane adjourned the meeting to ask the protection services – the white shirts or bouncers as they are also known – to come in. Knott then took her helmet and left of her own accord, with the security services staff outside the committee room.

Mapulane said her actions were distasteful and a "middle finger to Parliament".

In a statement released after the meeting, he said the committee was "appalled" by Knott's behaviour.

"The committee welcomes the presentations that were made today by all stakeholders that appeared before it and the clarity that was provided by the presentations. The committee particularly appreciates the presentations made by the members of the public who experienced the incident that took place at Clifton 4th Beach on 23 December 2018," reads the statement. 

The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira) informed the committee that charges were served for violation of the Code of Conduct on three security officers, on a director of PPA and on PPA as a legal entity, and that a hearing was scheduled for March 4.  

The Department of Environmental Affairs is also investigating the matter.

"The committee is particularly unhappy with the reported conduct of PPA where; based from today's deliberations in the committee meeting; that they exceed their mandate and conduct public functions that are supposed to be conducted by [the SA Police Service] of monitoring and regulating the conduct of members of the public in the beaches.

"In this regard, the committee would like to support the current inquiry by Psira, looking at the conduct of PPA," Mapulane's statement read.

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