Q&A with Cape Town's mayoral committee member JP Smith on beach row
Cape Town has been embroiled in a race row after allegations that black beachgoers were forced off trendy Clifton beach by private security guards.
Haven't you brought this on yourselves by not providing adequate security at Cape Town beaches?
This is the first time in five years we've had a public order issue on the beach.
Or the first one that has exploded like this one has?
It exploded for a different reason. We've had incident-free festive seasons for many years. This year we had three incidents on beaches including Clifton, late at night when our resources were thinly spread.
Do you have an arrangement with private security companies to fill the vacuum?
No. That would not be lawful.
Professional Protection Alternatives (PPA) says it was on the beach with your consent.
No, sir. My law enforcement people have assured me not.
What about a news picture showing your metro police accompanying them?
That was taken on December 16, one week before the incident in question, when law enforcement had a poaching bust at Maiden's Cove [in Camps Bay] and PPA came onto the beach uninvited to "assist".
You've accused the ANC of politicising the incident. Isn't that a bit naïve?
Well, it's political season, so predictably people will jump on the bandwagon. But don't purposefully and maliciously conflate the facts. Do not take the fact that you accuse a security company of asking people to leave, and then have a protest where you then say there's racism and apartheid, because initially you didn't say they asked people to leave selectively. The ANC transmogrified a complaint that [ANC Western Cape secretary] Faiez Jacobs originally started around PPA, and then halfway through changed that to suggest.
Surely, the bottom line is that a public beach was closed down by a private security company?
That depends on who you believe. The argument is between Jacobs, who claims it was, and PPA, who claims it wasn't. Our staff weren't in attendance, they had clocked off.
A private security company was on a public beach. Isn't that a violation of the city's bylaws?
Yes. So they were not acting lawfully. And we have laid a complaint with PSIRA [the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority].
Have you laid criminal charges?
We can't do that because our officers didn't observe the alleged offence. The people who made the allegations would need to do that, and we have strongly encouraged them to do so. They haven't.
Why would PPA say they had the city's consent if they didn't?
You'd have to ask them that. Their justification for being on the beach is an alleged criminal action which we can't confirm. We can confirm violent altercations days before, meaning law enforcement had an awareness of this problem.
So shouldn't your metro police have been on the beach that night?
They can't be on the beach 24/7; we don't have the resources.
How can you ensure there isn't a repeat of this issue?
People who observe it must report it immediately, not wait 36 hours and then hold press conferences. That's not how you resolve problems, that's how you make politics.