Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato denied that the incident in which beachgoers were ordered off Clifton Fourth Beach as part of a curfew was race-based. Picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato on Friday denied that the controversial incident in which beachgoers were ordered off Clifton Fourth Beach as part of a curfew was race-based.  

Speaking from the world-famous beach on Friday evening, Plato said: "I am told whites, Coloureds and Africans were asked to leave the beach. I'm not sure how true that is, but if it is really true then I want to ask the question where is racism in that?"

A furore erupted this week after it emerged that beachgoers were instructed to leave Clifton Fourth Beach. The actions by private security company PPA sparked outrage, with many people drawing parallels between that and apartheid-era legislation and action which saw black people prohibited from frequenting beaches set aside for whites.  

Protests and sit-ins have been planned for Clifton in the coming days.

The City of Cape Town has denied any involvement in the incident and accused the PPA of overstepping its mandate by forcing the closure of the beach.

Plato said: "I have not had an interview with them (PPA), officials are still dealing with them. I can't tell they are right or wrong, I've got a different perspective and I received different information but it's still under investigation."

Earlier in the day, Plato accused politicians of trying to exploit the attempts by the private security company to enforce a curfew at Clifton Beach to sow racial division in the city.

Plato, of the Democratic Alliance, stopped short of naming the African National Congress but said opportunistic political organisations had ignored the fact that security guards did not single out black Africans and Coloureds when it ordered members of the public off the beach.

"It has become clear over recent days that a security organisation operating at Clifton beach had no authority to ask anyone to leave Clifton beach, that they asked people of all races to leave and did not single out any race groups. 

"It has also become clear that opportunistic political organisations have ignored this fact to drive a highly divisive and politicised racial agenda. Our beaches will always be open to everyone of all races, locals and visitors alike. 

"Even though some political organisations will exploit any opportunity to drive a racial wedge in our society, this is something we must never allow," Plato said.

Earlier this week, ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs expressed outrage after private security guards told him and his family and friends to leave the beach as they had instructions to close it to the public at 8pm.  

Jacobs suggested that the security company acted with the tacit endorsement of what he termed "rightwing elements in the City of Cape Town administration and ratepayers".

City of Cape Town mayoral safety and security member JP Smith, however, said that the security company "did not act with the permission or consent of the city".

But the charge was repeated by former mayor Patricia de Lille in a statement issued on Friday morning.

"I’m appalled by the lack of leadership and accountability from Cape Town’s political leadership. They are absent," De Lille said.

"The reports we are receiving suggest that PPA, the security company, was conducting law enforcement with the tacit approval of the City’s Metro Police. "

She urged those who were ordered to leave the beach to lay criminal charges against the security company.

In a statement, Plato insisted that Cape Town "is an inclusive city", adding that the council would "always encourage everyone of all demographics to enjoy our public spaces". 

He said the controversy had served to better inform the public about their rights and to understand that only authorised law enforcement agencies had the right to ask anybody to leave a beach.

"Any person who feels that their rights are in any way being infringed should please immediately call the City of Cape Town’s emergency hotline by dialling 021 480 7700 from a cell phone or 107 toll-free from a landline."

The incident comes just months ahead of national elections in which the ANC will seek to win back power in the Western Cape province from the DA, whom it accuses of governing in the interest of a white elite. 

The DA faces another, new contender in the feisty De Lille, who has formed a new political party after a spectacular fallout with the DA.

African News Agency (ANA)