Anger over closure of Garden Route beaches
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Cape Town – The government’s move to enforce stricter lockdown measures, including the closure of some beaches in Covid-19 “hotspots” has prompted DA politicians to cry foul, with legal action to halt what they described as an unconstitutional overreach.
On the first day of the new measures, the Garden Route’s beaches from Keurboomstrand right through to Witsand were deserted as bathers adhered to the new restrictions.
Garden Route District Municipality mayor Memory Booysen (DA) said: “We are not satisfied with these regulations and we are challenging it with the Presidency. What we want is some leniency because why should we be treated any differently to KwaZulu-Natal. We want at least people to spend time on the beach. This will have a devastating impact on the businesses surrounding the beaches and the accommodation industry.”
Booysen said the decision was “irrational”.
“They (the government) did not take the impact this will have into consideration and it makes no scientific sense. The public is very upset and they don’t know who to blame,” he said.
In areas with the highest rate of infection, beaches and public parks will be closed for the duration of the festive season from December 16 to January 16, 2021.This applies to all of the Eastern Cape, as well as the Garden Route district in the Western Cape. In KwaZulu-Natal, beaches and public parks will be closed on what are traditionally the busiest days of the season. These days are the 16th, 25th, 26th and 31st of December and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of January 2021.
AfriForum along with The Great Brak River Business Forum, and a guest-house owner have filed an urgent court application in the North Gauteng High Court in a bid for Garden Route beaches to reopen during the festive season. They want the court to rule that the regulation is invalid and unconstitutional.
AfrForum’s head of campaigns Monique Taute said: “It is unconstitutional and discriminatory to close certain beaches given the enormous economic impact that it will have on especially coastal towns, that have been suffering the whole year due to the lockdown regulations. The December holiday is an opportunity to recover their economies to an extent and the closing of the beaches will lead to immense, irreparable damage for the businesspeople of these towns.”
According to AfriForum the limiting of access to beaches, that are public property, amounts to the restriction of a basic human right.
In court papers, Great Brak River Business Forum chairperson Wilhelm de Wet, guest-house owner Louis Cook and AfriForum, argued the decision to shut down Garden Route beaches between December 16 and January 3 was draconian and inconsiderate, and was against the interest of thousands of people employed in various sectors in the area. They argue in court papers the decision will have a dire impact on the Garden Route region, saying it is the seventh most popular tourism destination in South Africa and the businesses in the area rely on the festive season to provide a financial boon that is required to sustain their businesses.
Premier Alan Winde has also called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to reconsider the closure of beaches along the Garden Route, “The decision to close the Garden Route’s beaches for the entire festive season will deal a devastating blow to that district’s economy which is highly reliant on tourism for survival. This will result in major job losses and is of great concern to me,” said Winde.
DA leader John Steenhuisen has written to Ramaphosa and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, requesting they justify on which basis the decision was taken to close the beaches in the Garden Route District.
Steenhuisen said: “Such a regulation will also be the final nail in the coffin for the Garden Route’s coastal economies which are nearing total collapse. It was very clear from the start that the Western Cape did not want beach closures, nor did the province need them. The national government has blatantly ignored these requests.”
The president's spokesperson Tyrone Seale told the Cape Argus, “The Presidency is well aware of the request and we will provide submissions to Mr Steenhuisen.”
Meanwhile, Police Minister Bheki Cele visited beaches in Cape Town yesterday to ensure beachgoers were adhering to Covid-19 regulations.
Cele visited nine beaches: Strand, Macassar, Monwabisi, Mnandi, Strandfontein, Muizenberg, Camps Bay, Clifton and Big Bay. Cele's day-long visit to various beaches included the inspection of operational deployments as well as the assessment of adherence to lockdown regulations.