Durban – The city’s Golden Mile – stretching 6km along the beachfront from Blue Lagoon to uShaka – came under the spotlight this week in a Carte Blanche exposé showing how drug addicts and vagrants have hijacked some of the city’s most valuable sites.
With about 1million visitors expected to descend on the city this festive season, it is expecting to receive at least a R2.4billion cash injection over December and January.
However, the investigative journalism TV series reported that robberies, stabbings, drug dealings and pollution threaten to scare away visitors.
The programme’s recent feature showed how heroin needles and shards of broken glass from bottles smashed to make crack pipes can be found on the sandy shores, alleys between hotels and street corners meters away from the Golden Mile.
But the city says that it is making a concerted effort to ensure that beaches are properly maintained, and that it is speaking to NGOs about ways to deal with the used needles and vagrancy.
Award-winning bodyboarder Sascha Taljaard, who has lived at the coast all his life and has surfed for more than 30 years, said he had watched the condition of the beaches deteriorate over the years.
He said vagrants often slept under the piers.
“I was brought up here and I have watched the decay of the beach. I have found used needles on numerous occasions on the beach. I am going to surf now, but I have to use sandals because you never know what you can step on,” Taljaard said.
He said that as a bodyboarding coach, the beaches were his livelihood and the presence of carelessly discarded needles was destroying a lifestyle that Durban had worked hard to create.
Lifeguards, who chose to remain anonymous, said they often had to clean up the area, especially where they put up flags indicating swimming zones for bathers.
“Used needles, filth, dirty clothes and sometimes even faeces can be found on the beaches.
“It is not daily, but just the fact that it happens, even once, is a problem,” said one lifeguard.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the beach-front area was the city’s prime asset, and that it had made a concerted effort to ensure the beaches remained in pristine condition year round.
“We are ready to host the millions of domestic and international tourists who flock to our shores to enjoy our warm weather, beautiful beaches and friendly people during the festive season,” he said.
Mthunzi Gumede, spokesperson for mayor Zandile Gumede, pooh-poohed the Carte Blanche feature, saying “it was blown out of proportion”.
He insisted that the beaches were safe and that visitors this festive season could rest assured that they would be safe.
“We have increased the number of officers and municipal staff for the festive season.
“We are also discussing with NGO’s who hand out new needles to users, to present a disposal strategy to us. Even those giving out food to vagrants need to find suitable spots,” he said.
Source: iOl News