Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has cautioned against discriminatory practices at beaches across the country.
This follows reports of alleged interference and racial profiling of beachgoers who were removed from Clifton beach in Cape Town by private security firms.
“South Africa has just under 3000 km [of] numerous beaches designated for the public’s enjoyment and recreation. Everyone has a right to access these beaches and public amenities, as contained in the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act, 2008 (Act No. 24 of 2008) (ICM Act).
“No private persons or entities may interfere with the rights of citizens to access and enjoy our beaches and I hope the City of Cape Town will investigate reported incidents and make public findings in this regard,” said the Minister.
She said South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and no spaces are for the exclusive use of any citizens based on their race, gender or creed.
In a media statement, the City of Cape Town distanced itself from the actions of the private security company and reiterated that public amenities are available to all members of the public.
Mokonyane said: “Access to natural resources including the beach is a constitutional right enshrined in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. It is thus unlawful, in terms of the ICM Act to implement measures which prevent public access to the beach.”
The Act stipulates that any natural person in the Republic has:
a) A right of reasonable access to coastal public property; and
b) Is entitled to use and enjoy the coastal public property, provided such use-
c) Does not adversely affect the rights of members of the of the public to use and enjoy the coastal public property;
d) Does not hinder the State in the performance of its duty to protect the environment; and
e) Does not cause an adverse effect to the environment.
According to the Act, it is only under certain strict circumstances that the public’s access to the beach may be limited.
“In addition, under the Act, no one may charge a fee (directly or indirectly) in order to access coastal public property, without the permission of the Minister responsible for environmental affairs,” said the Minister.
The ICM Act also requires the users of coastal public property to exercise a duty of care, while they enjoy these facilities.
In this regard, Mokonyane appealed to tourists and holidaymakers to ensure that while they enjoy the splendor of these facilities they do so in a manner that does not compromise the integrity of the environment.
“The Minister wishes all beachgoers a safe and joyous festive season and calls on local authorities to implement strict measures to prevent any destruction of our natural resources and environment. This includes ensuring that beaches are clean, usable and free of pollution from unnatural sources,” read the statement.
The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs also condemned the restriction of access and the alleged removal of black people at Clifton Beach.
“As the Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs we condemn this barbaric and racist act of the unlawful removal of beachgoers by the private security company purportedly acting on the instruction of the City of Cape Town,” said chairperson of the committee Philemon Mapulane.
The committee said it will look into the incident with the City of Cape Town and the Professional Protection Alternatives (PPA) Security company or any other party involved in this incident