The Blythedale Festival, which runs for two days after Christmas Day, made headlines last year for numerous allegations including excessive drinking, loud music and revellers blocking residents from accessing their homes by parking on roads and driveways.
The R1.6-million festival in KwaDukuza, which attracts thousands of people from as far as Mandeni and Tongaat, includes sporting activities and music performances.
Throngs of people have started flooding the beach and playing loud music late into the night since November.
“We are not against people enjoying the facilities. We just want the KwaDukuza Municipality to start enforcing its own by-laws. The parking lot (where the parties and festival take place) is supposed to open at 5am and close at 10pm, but the noise goes on until dawn,” said Jenni Ruttledge of the Blythedale Residents and Ratepayers Association.
She said the festival itself was not the problem, but rather the aftermath when the artists and other revellers leave and the “after-party” commenced.
The association has had numerous engagements with the municipality over the impact that the disorderliness of the visitors had on the local tourism industry.
“In the previous years, establishments were able to warn their guests ahead of time but earlier this year we were told that the festival would be moving to Nonoti Beach,” said Ruttledge.
After last year’s chaos the KwaDukuza mayor, Ricardo Mthembu, reportedly promised that the festival would be moved to the secluded Nonoti Beach, but the area had apparently not been prepared in time ahead of next week’s event.
Apparently, budget cuts delayed the move as the area did not have lights, or shark nets, and the roads were still being upgraded.
“The problem is the alcohol abuse, but we’ve been researching this and we found out that it’s a widespread problem in other parts of the country, and the world. So even when the festival moves it will continue to be a problem unless something is done about it,” Ruttledge said.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said he was concerned about the impact the “uncontrollable partying” had on the value of his property.
“No one would want to move into an area where you literally get no sleep from the time the schoolkids finish their exams. It’s become a nightmare and the municipality obviously doesn’t care,” he said.
When the Sunday Tribune visited the beach parking lot on Wednesday afternoon, there were two taxi-loads of people from Mandeni who had come for their year-end function.
“We enjoy coming here because there are always security guards around so we feel safer,” said Siyanda Maseko.
People from the group had attended the festival but claimed they left before 10pm to avoid being caught in traffic.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the residents for people to stay behind and make a noise until the morning. And the other thing I’ve noticed is the littering, but that happens at other festivals as well,” said Akhona Ndlovu.
KwaDukuza spokesperson Sipho Mkhize said four festivals would be hosted in the region this festive season, with the Ballito New Year’s Eve and the Blythedale Festival being the biggest crowd-drawers.
He said the festival would run from 7am until 10pm and noise should be kept to a minimum thereafter.
“The event organising team has agreed to improve security and traffic management plans in order to avoid any previous occurrences. Vehicles will be directed to park at a central location, decongesting traffic flow on the promenade and roads leading to the beach and resident homes,” he said.
Mkhize said the move to Nonoti Beach had been hindered as there were still ongoing environmental assessments to conduct, which would not be complete by next week.