A barricade in Mahatma Gandhi Road. Access to the Durban beachfront is being controlled, with a permit system in place. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA
A barricade in Mahatma Gandhi Road. Access to the Durban beachfront is being controlled, with a permit system in place. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA

Storm over beach access

By Nabeelah Shaikh Time of article published Jan 1, 2017

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Durban - The festive season is usually one of the busiest periods of the year for Durban businesses, but those in Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road have taken a knock because of road closures.

Some businesses claim they were not consulted about the closures and, as a result, were unable to inform patrons, who had no choice but to turn away.

This has resulted in losses of up to 60percent in revenue being incurred over the past two weeks.

Authorities blocked off the entrance to the road to control the flow of traffic in and out of the area as part of a plan to close off the roads that lead to all beaches.

Roland Reddy, the owner of the Cape to Cairo nightclub, said this had been the worst festive period ever for his business. He had lost thousands of rand in revenue due to the road closures.

“Many people who visit the nightclub during the festive season come from all around the country. Some of them will never return to us and opt to go to different venues because of the closures,” said Reddy.

“This has crippled us. We are extremely upset by how this process has been handled. There was no prior consultation and businesses were left in the dark. There were no sign boards or anything to inform holidaymakers that we are still open for business.”

Reddy said he would seek legal advice and recourse for the losses he had suffered.

The Chairman Jazz Lounge on Mahatma Road also incurred losses.

Those trying to get access to the uShaka Marine World were also frustrated by the closures.

Marketing manager of uShaka, Mpume Mthembu, said they were advised that there would be one-way in, one-way out traffic flow through the Point Precinct, with Mahatma Gandhi being closed, diverting traffic via one of the parking lots.

“Dry runs were to be held to assess whether this would be feasible (we were not briefed on whether dry runs had taken place), and from implementation, comments were sent to metro police indicating disapproval of the system.

“Our tenants aired their concerns, and we have had deliveries delayed due to the backlog of traffic at the Bell Street intersection,” said Mthembu.

She said uShaka understood it was inevitable traffic into the Point area would be backlogged, as all other roads leading to the beaches were closed. “That left us with slow movement due to all traffic moving along a single route, instead of 3 or 4 alternate routes,” Mthembu said.

eThekwini Municipality spokesman, Mandla Nsele, said the road closures were necessary to ensure safety of beach patrons and to control traffic congestion.

“Certain roads leading into the beachfront precinct are closed on peak days and some are boom-gate controlled,” said Nsele. On peak days, the boom gates will be closed and only permit holders allowed access to the beachfront. The public were notified of the road closures through media and other platforms.”

Meanwhile, there was chaos in the North- and South Beach areas due to road closures.

Permits, which were not meant for sale, were allegedly being sold to holidaymakers for R200.

One holidaymaker, who did not want to be named, claimed he bought a permit from a man selling them near the Blue Waters Hotel.

Urban Improvement precinct chairman for the South Beach area, Ebrahim Vadachia, confirmed that people were caught selling permits for entry into the areas just metres away from the restricted, boom-gated areas.

“We asked authorities how people were getting access to the permits, but they did not provide answers,” said Vadachia.

“They did not give us the details of the printers of the permits. The printers could have printed extra, which were sold off at the beachfront. This system is a failure because there is no proper consultation and management is poor.”

Nsele said the beach permits were issued free to beachfront residents, businesses and tourists, and were not for sale.

“We strongly discourage members of the public from purchasing them. People found selling permits will be arrested,” he said.

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Sunday Tribune

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