THE proposed banning of swimming at Sardinia Bay Beach ruffled feathers in the Nelson Mandela Bay council chamber yesterday, when councillors debated the contentious issue.
The DA vehemently opposed the proposal, while the ANC said it was risky to keep the beach open for swimming as it was not easily accessible and had dangerous surf conditions.
The heated discussion, initiated by DA councillor Andrew Whitfield, started after economic development and recreational service executive director Zolile Siswana said in his report to the portfolio committee that the access road leading to the braai spots and clubhouse was constantly covered with sand which had to be removed regularly.
He said the beach had a reputation for drownings and was a breeding ground for criminal activity.
Other challenges listed in the report were:
- Continuous perlemoen poaching;
- Break-ins and theft of vehicles;
- Swimming under the influence of alcohol;
- Litter on the dunes;
- Unattended dogs;
- Insufficient budget for additional security and for lifeguard deployment;
- Dangerous surf conditions; and
- Slow emergency services response time.
Whitfield said there was a significant decrease in criminal activity at Sardinia Bay Beach, with only three car break-ins between January and last month.
"The report claims Sardinia Bay Beach has a maximum beach hazard rating and is totally unsuitable for swimming. This is a conclusion that is unsupported by any substantive evidence in the report," Whitfield said.
"The drownings that occur along this stretch of coastline have occurred at Sylvic Bay, which is not considered a swimming beach.
"By closing this beach for swimming we are admitting failure and condemning what is proclaimed by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism to be a popular beach for residents and tourists alike.
"The closure of this beach will not stop people from swimming. Only now there will be no lifeguards and the risk to bathers will escalate."
Whitfield was supported by fellow DA councillor Francois Steyn, who said: "Why don't we just close all the beaches if we can't provide a service as a municipality?
"We cannot simply close the beaches because we cannot provide a service."
Portfolio chairwoman Babalwa Lobishe said the sand dunes at the beach posed a serious threat if there was an emergency.
"If emergency services have to go there, how are they going to access the beach? How can we say go out and bathe? What if there's a drowning? Who is going to take responsibility for that?" Lobishe said.
ANC councillor Friday Frans said there were no light structures at the beach and the dangers of swimming there were confirmed by the lifeguards. The ANC questioned whether there was adequate cellphone network coverage.
ANC councillor Ace Gqabi proposed the banning be instituted subject to the outcome of an independent risk assessment. The ban was put on ice until the assessment is completed.