Nudist beach on hold with petition plan
They planned to play volleyball, race each other and frolic in the sun - all in the buff. But there will be no boobs or bums on display on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast this festive season.
SA's nudists have not reapplied to the Ray Nkonyeni municipality to allow them to bare it all on a 250m stretch of beach near the Mpenjati Nature Reserve.
The South African National Naturist Association is instead working on a plan to petition the national government to amend the Sexual Offences Act to make way for legal nudist beaches.
Fresh from attending the World Conference of International Naturist Federations in Portugal - where 56 delegates from 25 countries met - association chair Christo Bothma told the Sunday Times he plans to meet lawyers in the new year to prepare the petition.
"We are not giving up. Once the act is amended, municipalities will be entitled to amend their bylaws to provide for nudist-friendly beaches," Bothma said.
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 being caught.
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.
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.
Bothma said this week: "People have been going nude on that beach for about 25 years now. Our members know that it is not legal but we cannot be there to tell every other person that."
Ray Nkonyeni municipal spokesperson Simon April could not comment on whether nudists were still frequenting the beach. "Before the application they were visiting the area without the knowledge of the municipality, so I really don't know whether they do or do not," he said.
April said the municipality advised the association that it could resubmit its application.
Besides legality and sunburn, the other challenge naturists face is marketing nudity in a "positive way to remove the stigma associated with the lifestyle", said Bothma. The association has 610 members, with "slightly more men than women".
At the conference in Portugal, Bothma learnt that "about 60,000 to 80,000 European naturists travel annually and want some sort of naturist venue when they travel". SA has six resorts that cater to nudists.
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 the South African Naturists Association to declare the 250m stretch KwaZulu-Natal'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 Concern Citizens Group and its chair, the 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.