The outcome of the probe into whether the Ray Nkonyeni (formerly Hibiscus Coast) Municipality should have approved an application for nudists on Mpenjati Beach, was announced by the group in Marburg on Monday.
This was at a meeting with community members on behalf of whom the group had lodged the complaint to prevent the 500m stretch of beach near Trafalgar becoming South Africa’s second official nudist resort.
The group’s Reverend Mike Effanga later told The Mercury that the final report was hand-delivered to him on Friday.
“This is a victory, any wise municipality will realise this idea is dead. Laws are informed by morality and if you break the laws, you are offending morality. In contravening the laws, the municipality breached morality. And there is a zero possibility that the municipality can do anything now because they can’t change the law in 30 days,” said Effanga.
He was referring to the deadline for the implementation of remedial action.
“This is what they should have done three years ago, reject the application.They should have told the nudists to go be naked in their bathrooms like everybody else,” said Effanga.
In her findings, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said the Ray Nkoyeni Municipality had breached its own anti-nudity policies. This means the October 2014 council resolution to “relax” the by-law was in violation of the national legislation, (Local Government: Municipal Systems Act).
She called the use of the phrase; “relaxing the by-law” a “whitewashing and sugar-coating exercise intended to make the municipality’s unlawful act seem more appealing or pleasant when in actual fact it was unlawful and improper”.
Mkhwebane said while the municipality fulfilled its obligation for public consultation, it was not proper and meaningful as the views of the majority - who objected - were completely ignored “without even laying the legal or factual basis”.
The municipality was ordered to “reconsider” the resolution approving the application.
The public protector also ordered the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) to, within 60 days, review the municipality’s coastal management programme in relation to the establishment of a nudist-friendly beach at Mpenjati.
The MEC would then have to advise the municipality on whether to amend or replace the programme.
Ray Nkonyeni Municipality spokesperson Simon April said he was not aware that the report had been finalised and issued. “Last we dealt with was making written and oral submissions after the public protector issued a provisional report,” he said. This was in early September.
April would not be drawn on the nature of the municipality’s submissions as they were advised that - like the provisional report - any submissions were confidential. He said once the municipality had sight of the report, they would seek legal advice on the way forward.
Legal action was also a consideration for the applicants.
Athol “Lofty” Lutge, the chairperson of the South African National Naturists Association whose KwaZulu-Natal affiliate made the application, said they were disappointed at the public protectors’ decision.
The association had also not seen the report but he said if procedure was the issue, there was nothing stopping them from applying again and this time making sure the municipality followed the correct procedures.