DA questions closure of Garden Route beaches while KZN stays mainly open

The Garden Route district municipality is challenging beach closures and the DA says it’s inconsistent that closures in KZN are limited to but a few days while the Garden Route has had a blanket restriction imposed.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The Garden Route district municipality is to challenge government’s decision to shut its beaches from December 16 to January 3.

This as the  DA threatened to go to court if government did not sufficiently justify the decision.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night declared the municipality a coronavirus hotspot, meaning it will have restrictions similar to those imposed on Nelson Mandela Bay nearly two weeks earlier.

Ramaphosa also said beaches in the municipality — as well as those along the entire Eastern Cape coast and in KwaZulu-Natal on busy days — would not be completely shut during the height of the festive season.

Garden Route mayor Memory Booysen said on Tuesday: “The closure of beaches is a hard pill to swallow because we are a tourism destination and our economy is still struggling to recoup from the hard lockdown.”

An urgent Garden Route District Co-ordinating Forum (DCF) meeting was called in the wake of Ramaphosa’s announcement, at which Booysen engaged local municipal mayors, municipal managers, command centre cluster leaders, and various other stakeholders.

“One submission of particular importance to the Garden Route is for the cabinet to relax the restrictions relating to the closure of beaches and to change it to the same restrictions as KwaZulu-Natal. Our plea and request/submission from this morning’s engagement and from the onset of the resurgence of Covid-19 in our region has been for beaches in the Garden Route to remain open,” Booysen said.

The next step is for submissions to be communicated to the national coronavirus command council, with the backing of the Western Cape government.

“I am adamant that we can still get through this if we avoid crowded places, close-contact settings, confined spaces and enclosed spaces. In addition, Garden Routers and tourists need to adhere to the golden rules of keeping safe and adhere to the new regulations.

“We agree wholeheartedly with the tightening of alcohol sales because it will lower the unnecessary alcohol-related trauma cases we often see at hospitals. We are hopeful that this resurgence will be over quickly,” he said.

The DA said on Tuesday night that it had given Ramaphosa until 5pm on Wednesday to provide it with information on why a decision was made to shut beaches along the Garden Route — “failing which, we will approach the courts for urgent relief”.

“It is also our view that national government has not been fair and consistent in its imposition of this regulation across the country. Infection rates between the Garden Route and KwaZulu-Natal, for example, are not dissimilar.

“Yet while beach closures in KwaZulu-Natal are limited to but a few days, the Garden Route has had a blanket restriction imposed unjustly for the entire festive season,” said the party.

by Kgaugelo Masweneng