Police seize gun as Clifton tensions boil
Protests, sheep slaughter, armed security guards and claims of old-style beach apartheid mark a week of drama as swanky Clifton becomes the latest flashpoint for racial tensions
Members of the police anti-gang unit were deployed to Clifton beach on Friday after a dramatic week that revived memories of apartheid-style beach bans.
One of the unit's commanders confiscated a firearm in the beach car park from the security company at the centre of the furore. Last Sunday, private security guards sparked outrage after they illegally ordered beach-goers off Clifton's Fourth Beach, where bungalows cost about R50m.
On Friday evening the sand was stained with the blood of a sheep whose throat was cut by protesters in a "cleansing" ceremony to exorcise the "demon of racism".
The slaughter was the culmination of a week of growing outrage following last Sunday's operation at Clifton by guards employed by Professional Protection Alternatives (PPA), who told beachgoers to leave at 8pm.
Police refused to explain why the anti-gang unit - launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in November to tackle crime in the Cape Flats - was in Clifton during Friday's beach demonstration.
"[Unit] members were not deployed in the area yesterday [Friday], they conducted a separate operation," said spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana.
A Sunday Times team watched as the unit's Capt Sharon Jaftha confiscated a PPA guard's handgun, saying there were irregularities with its documentation.
The week's beach debacle started when social justice activist Fatima Shabodien and Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs said they were among beachgoers who PPA guards tried to force off the beach, allegedly in tandem with City of Cape Town law enforcement - a claim denied by the council.
Shabodien, of Johannesburg, said she had visited Fourth Beach during the end-of-year holidays for the past six years, often staying until midnight. "We have had no problem and we have given no problem," she said.
"We know the spin that they are giving is about controlling noise violations on the beach and security … There is suddenly a security concern because we are on a white beach.
"This isn't about safety in our case, it is about apartheid laws restricting black people to the Cape Flats."
PPA said it did not close down the beach but was assisting metro cops, who had decided to close the beach while waiting for the police, as two girls had been raped there.
The council and the police have rubbished this claim.
Police spokesperson Brig Novela Potelwa earlier told TimesLive that no rape incidents had been registered at Camps Bay police station on Sunday. "Information at the disposal of the SAPS suggests there was an attempt to sexually violate a 15-year-old girl. However, that was prevented by a group of beachgoers who subsequently reported the incident to police," she said.
"The victim and her family refused to open a case against the suspect, who is known to them.
"It is on this basis the SAPS refutes allegations that the security company was asked to intervene following two rape incidents. Reports of unruly behaviour by beachgoers are also disputed."
Police were investigating three assault cases against PPA. "The complainants - two beach vendors and an acquaintance of a female restaurant employee - opened assault cases against the private security personnel for different incidents."
By Friday, several groups including #FeesMustFall and Black First Land First had joined the fray, and the "cleansing" ceremony was attended by deputy police minister Bongani Mkongi and Cape Town mayor Dan Plato.
The situation grew tense as locals and animal rights activists objected to the slaughter of the sheep.
Protest organiser Chumani Maxwele, who cut the sheep's throat in front of a handful of animal rights protesters, dismissed the objectors. "Let them go and lay a complaint with the commission for cultural rights [Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights Commission] and other platforms," he said.
Jacobs denied charges by Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith that he was trying to get political mileage out of the incident.
"I didn't go there as the ANC secretary in the Western Cape, I went to the beach as a father and a husband," he said. "We fought against apartheid for the right to be on the beaches, only for a private security company to come and ask us to leave 24 years later."
Jacobs said the PPA guards' action brought back memories of segregationist policies which excluded people of colour from certain beaches.
"It's rich for people like JP Smith to come and say that I am politicking when this type of treatment was our lived experiences as black people," he said.
But none of those cleared from the beach on Sunday attended Friday's slaughter. "We must raise these issues in a way that's inclusive. My sense is that it is very easy to offend each other," said Jacobs.
Smith insisted PPA "acted without any mandate from the city", and said he reacted swiftly after the company's actions came to light. "This is more than you can say for the hundreds of roadblocks in gated communities across this country in ANC-controlled municipalities."
A Clifton resident, who asked not to be named, said the neighbourhood Bungalow Owners' Association started a contract with PPA in September, and homeowners paid the company individually.
PPA had been so successful in "cleaning up" the area - where a company bakkie and three armed guards are now permanently stationed at the entrance to Fourth Beach's car park - that many residents were considering cancelling their contracts with other security companies.
PPA CEO Alwyn Landman said the bungalow owners approached the company after some were attacked in their homes by armed men.
"Countless people were being robbed while they went down the stairs [to the beach]. Literally a day before we started, one of the residents was attacked by two guys as he was coming down the stairs.
"There were people in the parking lot selling drugs to kids. It was basically lawlessness … clients explained to me that they would call the police and they would eventually get there after 40 minutes, sometimes not," said Landman.
Sizwe Zuma, spokesperson for the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, said the regulator was investigating how a private security company ended up in a public space. Zuma said they were appealing to the public to provide evidence that would assist in the investigation.