Race has always been a contentious issue in South Africa, and one wonders if the country will ever genuinely heal and rise from the wounds inflicted by racial divisions. A private security company ordered black beach-goers to leave a very fashionable beach in Cape Town over the Christmas holiday.
Clifton Beach in Cape Town is a very fashionable beach in the affluent suburb of Clifton, and it attracts many visitors over the holidays. Authorities have since slammed the private security company for allegedly ordering black beach-goers to vacate the beach. PPA security firm claimed that it was working for the city authorities when patrolling the beach at Clifton but this was denied by a senior local official.
Two days before Christmas, beach-goers were ordered to leave Clifton Beach by PPA security guards. "The city has at no stage given any authority to PPA to enforce by-laws," Cape Town's director for safety and security Richard Bosman said in a statement.
"The city has acted swiftly to address the conduct of PPA staff... Any person who feels that they have been threatened or intimated by PPA staff can lay a charge with the South African Police Service."
This prompted retaliation from the blacks, who slaughtered a sheep at the beach on Friday in a supposed ritual to tackle racism and do away with it. Beaches have been hotspot for racial tensions in South Africa, as they were segregated under white-minority apartheid rule.
Mayor Dan Plato said the company "had no authority to ask anyone to leave Clifton beach", but he added that "they asked people of all races to leave, and did not single out any race groups".
He accused some "opportunistic political organisations" of exploiting the incident "to drive a highly divisive and politicised racial agenda".
From the perspective of the black people who are crying of injustice, the security guards had the sole intention of removing black people from the beach. Chumani Maxwele, who is a local activist, claimed that the guards had targeted black people on the beach, which attracts huge crowds over the holiday season.
"These private security guards are hired by the Clifton (residents), they are actually briefed to not allow black people who appear to look like they are from the townships or criminals onto the beach," he told the News 24 website.
"The offering of the sheep is calling on our ancestors to respond to our trauma at the hands of white people," he added.
A few dozen protesters, carrying placards reading "reclaim our beach" and "let's make Clifton black again", gathered on the beach on Friday evening.
PPA chief executive Alwyn Landman said that the company's guards did not close the beach, but acted to protect local residents after alleged criminal activity caused "mayhem".
When the sheep was slaughtered, there was pandemonium at the beach, with some animal activists saying that the sheep had a right to life, and there was a tense atmosphere, with a lot of foul language being hurled endlessly.
Header image: AFP