Sarongs see off stun grenades as Capetonians defy beach ban
The Covid-19 lockdown regulations prohibiting access to beaches failed the test of enforceability on Saturday as Cape Town police retreated in the face of determined beachgoers.
Protesters arrived at Muizenberg beach armed with logic, sarongs and sunscreen and prevailed over public order police trying to turn them back.
Among the lawbreakers were children dressed in bathing suits and underwear accompanied by parents wearing sun hats, niqabs and flip-flops.
A police commander was outflanked by protester Sven Jensen, who asked him to define a beach.
Jensen claimed most Capetonians live on the beach. “Since there's sand in our gardens, we all live on sand. Please define the word,” he said.
A public order police commander attempted to disperse a crowd of people at Muizenberg Beach on Saturday morning during a protest against the COVID-19 lock down beach ban. He is confronted by protester Sven Jensen who asks him to define the word "Beach". @TimesLIVE pic.twitter.com/bL32f7aaZv— Aron Hyman (@aron_hyman) January 30, 2021
Then protesters streamed onto the beach led by a man with a thin, braided ponytail, who assumed a meditative posture in front of a police officer at the edge of the surf. He was joined by several other people and fervent praying ensued.
Fellow protester Samuel Sampeta donned his Pan Africanist Congress flag as he walked on to the beach to fight what he called the government's oppression.
“I feel that the beaches should not be closed because the sea is essential for all of us,” he said.
“Closing the beach is in contravention of our basic human rights and it also tramples on our freedom of movement.”
Police officers with riot shields, batons and stun grenades began to move in on the crowd as they stripped off into swimwear.
It soon became apparent that their training and equipment had not been designed to resist a crowd of scantily clad women and children and the order was eventually given to retreat.
This was even after their numbers were bolstered by a child wearing a toy police raincoat who stood next to them and looked up at their faces as though he was awaiting his orders.
As the police left, a group of motorcyclists arrived and strolled onto the beach holding up their hands as though they were being cheered on by the crowd.
James Malan and Brent van der Westhuizen — regular faces at anti-lockdown protests since they clashed with police outside parliament last year — formed the Ride to Freedom which consists of biker organisations Renegade and Ragnarok.
“We are here to protest this kak! Take back the beaches!” exclaimed Van der Westhuizen.
Malan questioned why the police were at the protest at all. “There are real criminals out there, these people aren't criminals. What the f*** are they doing!?" he said.
One of the bikers took off his boots and walked into the waves in his jeans and black denim jacket.
This man refused to leave the water until police confiscated his shirt, flip flops, and cell phone. After demanding that it be returned he was handed back his belonging. He stormed off angrily. Warning, this video contains awkward scenes. pic.twitter.com/gdJcL6ThFg— Aron Hyman (@aron_hyman) January 30, 2021
In the waves a man held a sign which said “they want to divide people” and “when we put aside our differences no-one can stop us”.
“Ja, that's true hey. No religion!” said another motorcyclist with a patch on his jacket depicting the old SA flag while behind him a woman in a full burka prayed on her knees.