Our Burning Planet


Durban beach safety meeting called off at last minute as mayor mulls ‘come swimming’ challenge

Durban beach safety meeting called off at last minute as mayor mulls ‘come swimming’ challenge
The word CANCELLED over a city invitation in Durban entitled ‘A special engagement on the state of its beaches’. (Image: Supplied)

The Ethekwini municipality has cancelled a public meeting on the state of Durban’s beaches at short notice. This comes amid reports that mayor Mxolisi Kaunda may be planning to don a Speedo or baggies to stage a personal publicity stunt to ‘prove’ Durban’s beaches are safe again.

A by-invitation “special engagement with interested and affected parties” was scheduled for 1pm today (29 November) at the Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach, but city officials called it off yesterday afternoon with no reasons given, other than a statement that a new meeting date would be communicated in due course.

Initially, the city said senior officials were ready to provide an update on the state of water pollution and “share information and engage in solution-finding ideas” with various parties including the tourism industry, business and property owners, non-government groups and academia.

durban beach safety

Ethekwini’s full invitation to stakeholders. (Image: Supplied)

The word “media” did not feature in the city’s list of interested or affected parties. Nevertheless, it is understood that once word got out about the meeting, the city was inundated with attendance requests from a much broader audience — including this representative from the Daily Maverick’s Our Burning Planet section.

When the city was contacted for an explanation on why the meeting was cancelled, Ethekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela responded with:

“This was as a result of competing engagements. It is also not for the first-time that (a) meeting get(s) cancelled and its normal in an organisation of this size.”

Ethekwinis response to an Our Burning Planet request for an explanation on why the meeting had been cancelled. (Image: Supplied)

Apart from an apparent desire to select who attends/does not attend the meeting, there could be other embarrassing reasons — that may emerge later today — related to the extent to which the city’s in-house laboratory water quality testing results align with recent independent tests conducted by Talbot laboratories and the Adopt a River network.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has also been challenged to go swimming at Umhlanga after he reportedly expressed confidence last week that Umhlanga’s beaches would reopen on 1 December following recent repairs to local sewage infrastructure.

In a media statement last week, Democratic Alliance councillor Nicole Bollman challenged Kaunda to come swimming with them at noon on 2 December at Umhlanga.

Bollman said the invitation followed a recent media briefing where Kaunda reportedly expressed satisfaction that because the Ohlange sewage pump station had been commissioned, beaches would be open on 1 December and be ready to receive visitors.

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She said this assurance appeared to contradict reports that raw sewage was still flowing into the Ohlange River due to blockages in the sewer system.

“Although the DA fully supports the tourism industry who have been hard hit by the various ‘on again’ ‘off again’ approaches by the city, our concern is that failure to consider the resolution and repair of the sewer reticulation system in its entirety from source to the wastewater treatment plant in Phoenix will result in an ecological and health catastrophe to the unassuming bather coming to our shores for the festive season placing both them and Professional Lifeguards at risk.

“That the Mayor is as confident as he is, we welcome him to take the plunge and go for a swim. We are right behind you Mr. Mayor!” said Bollman.

However, sources suggest that Kaunda is reluctant to entertain the DA challenge and may be planning a dip on his own terms.

beach safety kaunda

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Judging by the city’s latest beach water quality tests posted on the city’s website, Umhlanga might be a much safer bet for Kaunda than several central Durban beaches considering that the city-measured E.coli counts next to the Umhlanga lighthouse, the main beach and Bronze beach  were recorded last week with low E.coli bacteria levels of between 10 and 52 cfu/100ml.

In contrast, the city-measured E.Coli levels at Country Club beach (opposite Moses Mabhida stadium) were recorded at a (minimum) level of 24,196 cfu last week.

South African recreation guidelines do not recommend swimming in water containing more than 500 cfu of E.coli bacteria due to the increased risk of contracting gastrointestinal illness.

Latest results posted on the Ethekwini website also suggest Kaunda would be ill-advised to take a dip at several other central Durban beaches such as Suncoast, Battery, Bay of Plenty, North Beach, South Beach, Wedge, Addington, uShaka or Vetches (all exceeded national guideline levels, recording E.coli levels between 683 and 2,603 cfu on November 22). DM/BM

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    We will fight them on the beaches, in the surf, and amongst the rotting turds floating, hey, Mister Mayor. Rather you than me. I’ve had cholera, and it ain’t pretty. But enjoy your swim, Mayor. May the shit not assail you. But if it does, Russia awaits you with post-contamination care! Viva, ANC, Viva!

  • HMMM. Competing engagements? Lack of competence in planning or cowardice? Is this the same mayor who had a water tanker parked at his home during the floods and the same mayor who has DSW clean up at his home after private functions?

  • Greg King King says:

    Come on people! You surely know that the mayor can’t swim!

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Brilliant, Dennis! One can only chuckle at such incompetence, arrogance and cowardice – an ANC trait. Mr Mayor should also take his kids, family and all his mates for a swim if he is so confident that all is hunkey dory!

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    The sewerage system has not been working for months and anyway taking a swim does not prove anything. Why not just move ahead and fix the treatment plants without a lot of fuzz. It should have been done a l o n g time ago.

  • Tony Reilly says:

    The inmates have escaped from the asylum and are now running the city of Durban……😒

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Cancelling the ‘big swim” with no explanation is rather like being let out of jail on medical grounds with no explanation! Seems that grand standing, lying and fraudulent use of tax and rate payers contributions are a common trait by the politically connected! Especially in KZN!

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