The government has introduced essentially another hard lockdown aimed specifically at use of the beaches during the season we depend on our beaches the most.
We depend on our beaches not only for our own recreational enjoyment and their soul-calming beauty, but for the tourist attraction that they are. Thousands of people come here on holiday because of the beaches.
Some own holiday homes and others stay at hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and other holiday accommodation. They spend money here on groceries, alcohol, fuel, eating out and anything else they might need during their stay.
Our town depends on this seasonal trade. Some businesses are able to keep going for the rest of the year just because of the income made during the holiday season. The rest of the year they are just ticking over.
Now, with one foul swoop, our short-sighted government is taking away the livelihood of many people in all coastal resort towns in the Sarah Baartman District and the Garden Route.
This will likely result in more job losses and business closures.
Government’s rationale is that Covid infections are surging and crowds on the beach would be super-spreader events, much in the same way the matric rage that took place in Ballito has been called a super-spreader event.
But for most of the season, our beaches are nowhere near being overcrowded. Rather than a blanket ban from December 18 to January 3, the government should have been more selective based on the dates we know crowds can be expected.
KwaZulu-Natal has taken this approach, with beach bans specifically on December 16, 25, January 1 and the two days before and after New Year.
This makes more sense, as these are the days thousands of people flock to the beaches, as well as parks and braai areas.
These also tend to be the times that vast quantities of alcohol are consumed, with accompanying reckless and aggressive behaviour.
If the government was truly concerned with the effect alcohol has on people’s behaviour they would ensure the liquor laws were enforced, not only in bars and taverns, but in prohibiting consumption of alcohol in public. This lawlessness is evident every year, along with the trashing of the beaches and parks with cans, glass bottles and food containers, and urinating and defecating in public.
It remains to be seen whether people will abide by the ban. Will fear of Covid and faith in government decisions be enough to keep people away?
If not, how will SAPS cope? They have been unwilling and unable to police the annual beach carpark parties already taking place.
– Jon Houzet