No nudist beach for Christmas - but lobbyists are not giving up
The wish of South African nudists to bare it all on a 250m stretch of beach near the Mpenjati Nature Reserve, on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, will go ungranted for another festive season.
More than two years since the public protector set aside the Ray Nkonyeni municipality's decision to allow nudity in the area, the South African National Naturist Association (Sanna) is still working on a plan to petition the national government to amend the Sexual Offences Act to allow for legal nudist beaches.
The association's chairperson Christo Bothma told TimesLIVE that he plans to meet lawyers in the new year to prepare the petition.
Although Bothma made the same statement a year ago, he remained confident that 2020 will bring nudists closer to achieving their goals.
"The idea is not scrapped and we are not giving up. We are working on a representation to see if we can amend the act to allow nude people on public beaches and places. This will force municipalities to amend their bylaws and we will then reapply for Mpenjati to be a legal naturist beach," said Bothma.
At the first public hearing into the proposed nudist beach, at Trafalgar in 2014, residents were divided, with some opposed to "drooping boobs and buttocks" on their beach, while others wanted to strip down without fear of getting in trouble with the law.
In a 2017 report that voided the municipality's permission for a legal nudist beach on technical grounds, the public protector pointed out there was no wording in the act that suggested criminalising nudity in a designated and access-controlled nudist beach.
The idea is not scrapped and we are not giving up.Christo Bothma
But the Concerned Citizens Group, which approached the public protector in opposition to the application for a nudist beach, said there was no way to designate a public area for nakedness without excluding other members of the public.
The group's chairman Rev Mike Effanga will oppose any new application for a nudist beach in the area.
"Our position remains the same. Once a new application is lodged, we will oppose it. Nothing is going to change our opinion and concerns. We don’t want a nudist beach here," Effanga told TimesLIVE.
Ray Nkonyeni municipal spokesperson Simon April said there were currently no plans for a nudist beach in the area - although the municipality was willing to consider applications.
"There is nothing happening, as the previous applicant was advised of the outcome of the public protector’s findings and remedial action, of which the municipality accepted. The municipality is still open for applications of such, as even the previous process was as a result of an application by an interested party," said April.
Despite facing challenges and stirring anger from critics, naturism appears to be growing as a movement in SA. Last year Sanna had 610 registered members. This number grew to over 650 this year - and Bothma predicts that more people will register next year.
"People appear to be more open about naturism because more people are talking about it," he said.
SA currently has six resorts that cater to nudists. Bothma said at least 30 to 40 "new" naturists visited SunEden Naturist Resort outside Johannesburg every month.
HOW THE NUDE BEACH BATTLE HAS PLAYED OUT
- 2014: The Ray Nkonyeni municipality relaxes a bylaw allowing nudists on the beach when it approves an application by Sanna to declare the 250m stretch KZN's first official nude beach.
- 2015: The municipality allows a trial run of the nudist beach during the Easter holiday. Later that year, co-operative governance & traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube issues a directive to the municipality in December that no nudity is allowed as the bylaw to legalise the beach as a nudist venue is not yet formalised.
- 2016: The Concerned Citizens Group and its chair, Rev Mike Effanga, complain to the public protector about the plans to legalise nudism.
- 2016: The municipality designates part of the Mpenjati Estuary a nudist-friendly beach.
- 2017: The public protector releases a report after the community objects to the nude beach, setting aside the granting of permission on the grounds that the council had not followed the proper process.