South African Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula on Saturday joined the chorus of condemnation against the removal of blacks from a public beach in Cape Town.
The removal of black beachgoers is “discriminatory,” the minister said. Last Sunday evening, the Professional Protection Alternatives (PPA), a private security company, allegedly removed black beachgoers from a popular beach in Clifton, an upscale community in Cape Town.
The PPA said it did so upon instructions from the City of Cape Town. The incident has made news headlines these days in South Africa as it is reminiscent of the apartheid days when black people were denied access to certain public places. The private security guards reportedly were hired by the Clifton residents who allegedly don’t want black beachgoers to stay at the beach after sunset for fear of crimes.
It is not acceptable for any security company to remove people from a public space, Mokonyane said. “We also have an obligation as South Africans to make sure that when we use these public facilities we maintain the mental standards and we do not also impose what is a preference of a minority or a certain group because of their own proximity,” the minister said.
South Africa belongs to all who live it, she added.
South African lawmakers also added their voice to the public outcry over the incident. On Friday, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs condemned “this barbaric and racist act of the unlawful removal of beachgoers.”
South Africa will never return to the apartheid years where black people were restricted from gaining access to certain public spaces, committee chairperson Phillemon Mapulane said. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has accused the security company of “giving itself the authority to ignore our Constitution” and illegally ordering citizens to leave the beach.
The City of Cape Town, through a media statement, has distanced itself from the actions of the private security company. The city’s mayoral safety and security member JP Smith said the security company “did not act with the permission or consent of the city.”
City mayor Dan Plato, however, downplayed racial tension as a result of the incident, saying “opportunists” were trying to “drive a racial wedge in our society.” He said the security guards asked people of all races to leave the beach and did not single out any race groups. Plato told reporters that a thorough investigation would be conducted into what happened on the beach.
“It has also become clear that opportunistic political organizations have ignored this fact to drive a highly divisive and politicised racial agenda,” he said in apparent reference to the ANC.
But the ANC in the Western Cape Province denied allegations that it was taking advantage of the incident to fuel racial tension in Cape Town, which is run by the opposition Democratic Alliance.