The proposed by-law seeks to prohibit undesirable conduct, which includes that no person may in the coastal zone indecently expose their body, perform an indecent act or use foul language. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Town - A controversial new by-law proposed by the City of Cape Town has been flagged as anti-poor by civic associations and opposition parties.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) said the proposed coastal by-law was problematic and vague.

“The by-law talks about entry and use of coastal facilities. Much of the language used is vague and opens the opportunity for abuse. We know that the people that would abuse this by-law are the people that are supposed to enforce it: law enforcement,” said SJC general secretary Axolile Notywala.

“It seems to be like many of the anti-poor policies and by-laws. We believe it needs to be made clear, because who will regulate the number of people coming on to the beach? And what about grounds for prohibition on these issues?” 

The proposed by-law seeks to prohibit undesirable conduct, which includes that no person may in the coastal zone indecently expose their body, perform an indecent act or use foul language. It also states that no person may behave in an improper, indecent, unruly, violent or antisocial manner or cause disturbance.

It also gives the City more power over coastal facilities, including beaches, pools, promenades, showers, toilets, pavilions and tidal pools. It states that the City may regulate the number of people entering and using a coastal facility.

ACDP city caucus leader Grant Haskin said: “We will monitor its implementation, and should the by-law’s provisions not be implemented or prove to be impractical, the party will propose amendments.  

“The City must now take up its responsibility in terms of the provision of beach facilities and maintenance. We remain especially concerned that the internationally iconic Blouberg Beach has been allowed to deteriorate to the disgrace that it has been over the last decade.” 

ANC city caucus leader Xolani Sotashe said: “It’s problematic to basically say people cannot access the beachfront, and it will be interesting to see how the City intends to monitor all of this.”

Urban policy expert Walter Fieuw said there was a correlation between the proposed by-law and the parks by-law, “Many of the same behavioural issues are mentioned in both these by-laws, such as foul language, use of substances, food, animals and so on, so we have to think about the public’s experience of parks and beaches.

“On the one hand, we can expect that a diverse society such as Cape Town will cater to all walks of life, and on the other we have very conservative citizens who rather expect peace and quiet,” said Fieuw.

He said the coastal by-law was a step in the right direction for giving local government the power to enforce the protection of the coast by curbing illegal fishing, the removal of beach sand and vegetation, as well as littering and dumping. 

The City’s Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, said: “The intention of the by-law is not to be punitive with regard to foul language, but rather to create provisions that will enable the City’s law enforcement officers to intervene when necessary and to prevent any person from being verbally abused in public spaces on our coastline.” 

She said it was to ensure that the public’s right of access to, and use of beaches as public spaces, was entrenched. 

“The draft by-law is intended to create safer and cleaner beaches, free from litter and pollution, to protect sea life, improve safety and enforce the public’s right to access and enjoy beaches and sea indefinitely.”

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Cape Argus