Cape Town - The temporary locking of access gates to the Kalk Bay tidal pool on New Year’s Day infuriated some residents who believe this was done to prevent people from poorer areas getting to the spot, however, the Kalk Bay harbour master on Monday said it was a matter of crowd control.
"We only locked the gates for the morning so that we could control the crowd," harbour master, Shafiek Ebrahiem told News24.
He said that the gates were locked on New Year’s Day at a time in which the crowds were particularly large and there were not enough officials to attend to all public access areas.
Officials were overseeing that no alcohol is brought onto the beaches.
Ebrahiem said that the gates were unlocked once there was a more manageable amount of people.
On Monday, a Facebook post and photo of people seemingly being turned away from the gate on Sunday sparked an uproar.
"Any ideas how we can assist people, mainly poor from the Cape Flats who annually come to the beach in Kalkbay to reclaim the beach?," posted a user, who also uploaded the photograph.
The Facebook post blamed the Brass Bell restaurant, located near the gates, for the move.
In 2012, the Brass Bell was the centre of another row about access to a tidal pool.
Brass Bell denies involvement
Kalk Bay residents had complained after a deck at the restaurant was extended onto the beach, without public participation, and they feared this would restrict the public's access to that area.
That issue was eventually resolved.
On Monday, scores of furious Facebook users commented on the post about the gate being locked on New Year's Day.
Western Cape ANC provincial legislature member Cameron Dugmore was among those who commented.
"This issue must be taken up by our ANC comrades in (the) City," he said.
Economic Freedom Fighters chairperson Bernard Joseph also reacted to the post, saying: "We can run this matter for the community."
Ebrahiem on Monday said the Brass Bell had nothing to do with locking the gates.
Restaurant manager Gary Galvin also posted a response on social media, saying: "The Brass Bell had no involvement in restricting any access to the public areas."
He also provided a copy of a letter to the restaurant from the City of Cape Town’s sport, recreation and amenities department, in which it declares that the municipality "is in support of the Harbour Master limiting pedestrian thoroughfare between the Kalk Bay Harbour Beach and Brass Bell on 1 and 2 January".
'Coming to Kalk Bay is an institution for our communities'
The letter says the reason behind this was to "effectively manage visitor safety and numbers".
It furthers says that the tidal pool would remain open for the public, with access being allowed via the subway.
Meanwhile, the City's executive safety and security director, Richard Bosman, said that City officials had been the one’s behind re-opening the gates.
"I can confirm that our law enforcement staff opened the gate after it had been closed for a while to facilitate access control."
However, the crowd control explanation did not seem to please some social media users.
One commented that, for those living on the Cape Flats, "coming to Kalk Bay is an institution for our communities".
"In some cases it's the only outings we have until the following festive season."
Another Facebook user declared that the poor should have the right to enjoy the festive season: "Who gives anyone da right to judge which group of people can use our beaches n public facilities [sic]."