Cape Town - The DA has called for an investigation into an alleged racist incident by staff at popular Kalk Bay restaurant Brass Bell, who, it is alleged, turned away scores of black people who tried to gain access to the municipal tidal pools behind the establishment.
According to the DA provincial spokesman for community safety, Mark Wiley, restaurant staff had on December 26 reportedly turned away and redirected people to the harbour beach after they locked a door that leads to the footpath from the station subway to the beach.
“The city must investigate this and lay criminal charges. Should these allegations prove correct then they must be condemned in the strongest terms… there is no place for racism in South Africa today and no argument can justify these reported actions,” said Wiley.
But the restaurant has rejected the racism claims, with owner Tony White saying the restaurant never turned anybody away, but merely advised the crowds not to use the footpath for “security and safety reasons”.
“Nobody was barred from going to the beach. There were hordes of people who came to the beach.
“All we did was to give instruction to our security personnel to persuade people not to go and warn them about the dangers of using the tidal pool as it was half-empty and therefore not safe to use,” he said.
“We didn’t target any race, the only people we targeted and persuaded not to use the pathway were people with alcohol… those who looked suspicious and gangster-like, and women with young children as it was not safe for children to swim there seeing that the pool was half empty.”
The footpath, which has traditionally been used by fisherman and harbour beachgoers for generations, is mainly used to access the beach and the municipal tidal pools. But it has become controversial lately following the “illegal” construction of deck extensions at the restaurant.
In addition to the two decks that White had erected near the children’s tidal pool, he had also put a door along the walkway which is used by residents and the public to walk from the harbour to Main Road.
In recent months, White was ordered by the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning to dismantle the deck extensions and restore the public area to its previous state.
Its investigation found that he had contravened the National Environmental Management Act by building the decks.
This followed a complaint by residents who were annoyed by the erection of the two decks near the tidal pools.
Residents complained that no public participation had taken place.
They called the construction work by White “privatisation” and a “takeover” of a public area.
Tony Trimmel, the chairman of Kalk Bay and St James Residents and Ratepayers Association who saw footage of the crowds being turned away, described the alleged racial incident as “unacceptable, disgusting”.
“It’s not only disgusting for Kalk Bay residents, but it is disgusting for all South Africans who have every right to use those tidal pools.
“It reminds us of times gone by where people of colour were not allowed to go to those pools simply because of their skin colour.
“We shall never accept such behaviour again… it has no place in the new South Africa we live in,” he said.
White said he was amazed at the “sudden interest” shown by the residents association after “I restored the pools from a derelict state into a beautiful establishment for everyone to enjoy”.