By Peta Thornycroft | The Telegraph |
A picturesque South African beach has been embroiled in a bitter racism row after a local security firm allegedly turned away black bathers from the area, prompting protesters to ritually slaughter a sheep on its sands to ward off prejudice.
Security guards working on Clifton beach in Cape Town allegedly told black citizens to leave the site two days before Christmas in a bid to keep “criminals” away from the droves of tourists who visit each year.
In response, a group of protesters slaughtered a sheep on the beach in a ritual supposed to ward off racism, while others sang and burned incense.
Beaches, along with many other public areas, were segregated under white-minority apartheid rule and have since been a flashpoint of racial tension in South Africa.
The mayor of Cape Town has denied that security firm PPA was only asking black residents to leave the beach and that it “did not single out any race groups.”
Meanwhile Alwyn Landman, the chief executive of PPA, said the company’s guards did not close the beach and were only trying to protect local residents from criminal activity which had caused “mayhem” in the area.
However, Chumani Maxwele, a local activist, said the guards had deliberately told black people on the beach to leave.
“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.
Patricia de Lille, the former mayor of Cape Town, also waded in to the row, insisting that PPA had no lawful basis for closing off the beach to residents.
“It is shocking to learn that a private security company has been permitted to police our magnificent Camps Bay and Clifton Beaches,” she told the Daily Telegraph.
“Public amenities have no closing times. We have long passed the days of curfews and restricted movement.
“[This] tramples on our hard-won constitutional rights and anyone who was forced to leave the beach should lay criminal charges with the police”.
It is the latest in a series of controversies over the issue of racism on South Africa’s beaches. In 2016, South African estate agent Penny Sparrow likened black beach-goers to monkeys in a social media post, triggering widespread outrage. She was fined 150,000 rand (£8,100).
In September, South African tourist Adam Catzavelos ignited another storm of protest after he used a racial slur in a phone video message from Greece, boasting that the beach had no black people on it.