OPINION | Clifton incident exposes public security failure

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If the ostentatious protest we saw at a Clifton beach in Cape Town, apparently against racism, did not have serious repercussions, we could easily shrug it off as expected. However, the implications are terrible if we truly want to eliminate racism.
“We know the spin 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 was reportedly said by one of the people at the centre of this story, social justice activist Fatima Shabodien, who was apparently at the beach with Western Cape ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs during the removal of people from the beach.
But since when do we have something called “a white beach” in South Africa 24 years after the end of apartheid? The last time I checked, our beaches were free to the public – eh, in fact so free that criminals make them their playground.
For anyone to call one of our beaches “a white beach” is misleading at least.
At worst it is designed to milk the racially charged atmosphere that has descended on our beloved country since the discredited racial narrative peddled by Bell Pottinger on behalf of state capture.
“This isn’t about safety in our case – it is about apartheid laws restricting black people to the Cape Flats,” said Shabodien.
I may not be aware, but do we still have laws restricting “blacks” from entering any of the beaches of our beloved land? If not, did Shabodien peddle a lie, or was she genuinely ignorant of what laws we still perpetuate from the apartheid era – eh, perhaps like me?
What would be tragic is for a whole protest to be organised, and an innocent sheep to lose its life, simply because the people at the centre of the furore failed to get to the bottom of the matter and settle it right away.
But I suspect had that happened, there would be no political traction to speak of, no mention of names, no media attention, just a simple solution to a developing situation.
Indeed it took very little time before “serial protester” Chumani Maxwele, among others, turned up with the doomed sheep and impepho in hand, licking his lips and basking in the sweet nectar of attention.
Thankfully there was no poo in hand this time. Never to be outdone, the discredited Black First Land First (BLF) could not miss this rich opportunity to embrace some confusion. How anyone who regards themselves as “conscious” could be seen anywhere near this fringe group is beyond me. The deputy police minister, ANC’s Bongani Mkongi, was there, as was the EFF. But so was Cape Town mayor Dan Plato of the DA, all watching the bylaws of the city being crushed, and still hoping to save face somehow.
None of this detracts from the question of whether private security personnel are allowed to discharge duties legally reserved for the police. That situation should never be allowed, as it muddles the lines between private and public security.
It also diminishes the already damaged respect for the rule of law in South Africa. At the same time, where racism shows its ugly head, it must be dealt with promptly. The laws of the land are adequate to do this over and above confident, direct and honest dialogue.
It is this confident, direct and honest dialogue that suffers when such ostentatious protests are allowed to undermine the rule of law. Anyone can organise a protest. The BLF has demonstrated how easy it is to pay a few “protesters” to make a noise. This builds nothing and sells the valuable asset of confident, direct and honest dialogue for a few miserable moments of attention.
However, the most tragic thing about the Clifton beach saga is possibly the failure of state security, without which there would be little private security.
The amount of money spent on private security because of the failure of police to discharge their duties is unforgivable.
It is at the centre of unequal access to security, because those with means can pay for it, while those who can’t, have to wait for the “broken vans” of the police service.
That’s unforgivable.
Bantu Mniki’s column, Frankly Speaking, will resume in its regular slot on January 9...

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