Ballito community outraged after beach walk ends in arrests

By Lyse Comins Time of article published May 13, 2020

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Durban - Eleven Ballito residents were arrested on Sunday morning for allegedly taking a walk on the beach with their children.

They were charged with “being on the beach when it is closed to the public” before being released on R1000 bail each and told to appear in court in August. Among them was the father of the child who was “seized” by KwaDukuza traffic police.

On Monday, a video went viral on social media of two officers grabbing the 4-year-old boy as he walked behind his father inside a complex i * Ballito, on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast. The father was later arrested.

Several parents, who spoke to The Mercury on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised, denied they were on the beach. They claim they were walking along a path near their homes which overlooks the beach when the traffic officers arrested them.

One resident said she had left home just before 8am to walk with her husband and two children and never imagined it would end in their arrest.

“On our way back to our apartment we were arrested by the officers, who said we were on the beach. We were not at the beach. They arrested us on a footpath that leads down to the beach.”

She said about 10 traffic officers had stopped in unmarked vehicles and arrested them and several other people, including the father in the video.

“When they approached us, the officer said ‘We are arresting you today for being on the beach; you contravened some law’,” she said.

She said the officers allowed them to take their children home, then took them to the police station where they were charged with “being on the beach when it is closed to the public”.

“The father in the video was also given permission to take his children home and the officers accompanied him. Suddenly, we heard screaming. When he returned, he was handcuffed and the officers said it was because he was resisting arrest,” she said.

She said the residents were handed over to Umhlali police officers and placed in “dirty cells”.

“I am a law-abiding citizen. I don’t even break the speed limit. We teach our children to abide by the laws of the Lord as well as your country,” she said.

“We thought people were allowed on the beach. From our apartment we could see tons of people running and walking on the beach. Lifeguards were also telling people that they could run on the beach. I was not aware it was illegal to be on the beach. The injustice of it all is most frustrating,” she said.

The resident who filmed the video of the child being “seized” was also arrested at the top of the path where he was walking with his daughter.

He said he had accompanied the father of the child to the complex. He said 11 people, including an octogenarian couple, had been arrested after they walked up the path.

“They had their shoes on and didn’t even touch the sand and they got arrested. They were so upset,” he said.

He said he had asked a lifeguard last week whether walking on the beach was permitted.

“He said he wasn’t sure but he would find out. I went back a few days later and everyone was walking on the beach. The lifeguard said: ‘It’s fine, you are allowed to walk on the beach but you are not allowed to swim’.”

Durban criminal attorney Wesley Rogers said he had sent an open letter to KwaDukuza acting mayor Dolly Govender in which he called for the officers’ suspension and a criminal investigation.

He also suggested that traffic police undergo legal training “to prevent another gross violation of the law and abuse of power taking place, lest the municipality wishes to leave itself open to a plethora of civil claims”.

Rogers said he had written the letter to uphold the Constitution and for police to be held accountable to prevent the country from reverting to a police state.

“In my practice I deal with abuse of power by police very often and now, in the lockdown, state entities need public buy-in. If their assumption is the police are allowed to break the law while purporting to enforce the law, the public will lose faith in the police and we will have escalated incidences of public disobedience,” Rogers said.

The KwaDukuza Municipality said in a statement on its Twitter account last night that it conducted an internal investigation into the incident.

The municipality said its officers received a complaint about lockdown regulations being flouted at the Shakas Rock Tidal Beach and 11 people were arrested.

It said the child seen in the video “was handled in terms of Child Act, and was being taken to safety after the arrest of the father who works for the Department of Health”.

The municipality said the man “causing drama” in the video had been running away to avoid arrest.

Premier Sihle Zikalala said he had tasked Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Bheki Ntuli and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka to conduct an urgent investigation into the incident.

He cautioned that while the municipal officers had a mandate to maintain peace during the lockdown, the abuse of children would not be tolerated as it was a violation of the Constitution.

The Mercury

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