A deserted Robberg 5 Beach in Plettenberg Bay. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
A deserted Robberg 5 Beach in Plettenberg Bay. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Garden Route unlikely to survive Covid-19 beach closures - DA

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Dec 17, 2020

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The DA has insisted that it was not playing politics with the Covid-19 pandemic by waging a legal fight against new regulations imposed for parts of the Western Cape.

This comes as the official opposition is planning an interdict against the current regulations measures imposed by the national government closing beaches in the Western Cape’s Garden Route region.

The decision was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.

On Tuesday night, the official opposition gave Ramaphosa until 5pm yesterday to explain why he had declared all recreational parks and beaches in the DA-led region off bounds to the duration of the season.

DA national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said the move would kill businesses in the area.

“The Garden Route is unlikely to survive these regulations. We would be problematic and criminal to politicise this issue,” Gwarube said.

Ramaphosa declared that the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape’s Sarah Baartman region were added into the list of Covid-19 hotspot areas after Nelson Mandela Bay.

Following the recommendation of Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, all the beaches and recreational parks are currently off bounds to the public until next year, while a differentiated approach had been applied in KwaZulu-Natal, which will see the public prohibited from accessing these spaces on traditional busy days, including public holidays.

But the DA has vowed to fight against the move to impose a strict lockdown in the Garden Route, insisting that it would head to court in a bid to open up the tourist attraction area.

Gwarube said the party was concerned that businesses that traditionally thrived on tourism would be plunged into further financial distress if beaches were closed during summer holidays.

“At least the area deserves a differentiated approach like KZN, not a blanket approach which will result in the suffering of the businesses which already suffered in the past nine months. The patterns in KZN and the Garden Route are similar, and there is no reason why a similar approach o KZN is not adopted,” Gwarube said.

Gwarube said the DA had enhanced enforcement and protection measures in the area, including healthcare measures in the event of hospitalisation.

But the national government has highlighted that the coastal area was among the biggest sites for the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected around 874 000 people and claimed almost 24 000 lives to date in SA.

DA leader John Steenhuisen, however, insisted on Monday that the Western Cape under Premier Alan Winde did not present a significant threat of Covid-19 infection.

“The provincial government has submitted various hotspot containment plans demonstrating that the Western Cape is adequately capacitated to manage the seasonal influx of tourists who visit our province for its beach tourism,” Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen said the party would fight for the rights of its voters in the province, which is the only one under the governance of the DA in the country.

“We are taking this fight to the courts to ensure that we uphold this commitment to our voters, and to guarantee that there are still thriving coastal economies in this province long beyond the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

The Eastern Cape provincial government had requested week that all its recreational spaces and beaches be off bounds to the public during the festive season, as the province also battles the sporadic spread of the disease which has also infected health MEC Sindiswa Gomba.

Two provinces, KZN and Gauteng, have been declared the main contributors of the Covid-19 second wave of infections, which daily averages around 8000 cases.

Presidential spokesperson Tyrone Seale said while he had not personally seen the letter from the DA to Ramaphosa, he was aware of its reported existence, and that it would be later responded to.

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