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Monday Apr 18, 2016

Durban polishes Golden Mile

Residents of Durban's South Beach are taking action to make the beachfront a safe and clean environment for locals and tourists.

Durban's 'Golden Mile'.

The South Beach Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP) has called for the Metro police and the SAPS to act against drunken behaviour, and drug dealers and sex workers plying their trades.

Chairman Ebrahim Vadachia described the stretch as a "proliferation of pubs and outlets and even spaza shops staying open 24/7 and 365 days a year. Alcohol is one of the main factors along with other elements such as drugs and prostitution."

The city's new beach bylaws came into effect on April 12, which does not allow drinking in public areas, and "alcohol to be consumed only at licensed premises", and the "selling or hawking of any illegal goods or services" also prohibited, as is begging. Beachgoers are encouraged to clean up after themselves, while the repairing and washing of vehicles in any beach area is also not allowed.

Having travelled extensively, Vadachia said beachfront property around the world was normally regarded as prime real estate. "The beachfront used to be called the Golden Mile and we want that back."

"Whenever I travel, I keep my eyes open and from Capri to Nice and everywhere I have been, the beachfront is the jewel in the crown. The two key requirements for any beachfront is for it to be clean and safe for tourists," he said.

When it comes to policing, Vadachia slammed the Metro police and the SAPS saying "they are perceived to be part of the problem by residents, they need to be part of the solution.

"I have had a meeting with the city's community safety and liaison department and we appear to have the same aims and objectives, but police officers in the area seem to be ambivalent or incapable of dealing with situations. Do they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo?

"We have managed to clean up the precinct and we have introduced our own security. We do not tolerate nonsense."

Urban improvement precincts have been rolled out successfully in uMhlanga and Florida Road. Residents assume a share of responsibility for the public space outside their residences. A recently introduced measure by the South Beach UIP was to close beachfront parking areas after 11pm (the precinct runs from the West Street Mall, along OR Tambo, down Rutherford and along Gillespie streets) in an effort to stop all-night partying.

Vadachia said the closing of the parking areas had resulted in cleaning up the precinct but was only one measure being implemented.

He also heads up the CBD precinct and the north eastern business district precinct, which includes the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre Complex and plans include extending precincts down to uShaka and inwards to the city.

Fedhasa operations director east coast, Charles Preece said it was illegal for people to drink in public, yet the relevant authorities did not seem to be enforcing the law.

"(Metro) police don't seem to be reacting to drinking in public. It's pointless passing laws if you are not going to enforce them. The authorities seem to have abdicated their responsibility. The municipality has done great things along the beachfront, but private developers have not.

"The UIPs cannot police on their own and have to work hand in glove with the SAPS and Metro," said Preece.

Head of Durban Tourism Phillip Sithole commended the work done by the UIPs, especially in getting the city and the private sector to play a more active role in taking responsibility to ensure the beachfront precinct, a core attraction for tourists, is well maintained and safe.

Sithole highlighted the success of the Florida Road UIP, which has seen a reduction in crime since its inception. "UIPs and the city are ensuring the prevention of decay."

Sithole added that it was also busy with the inner-city local area plan, which would also ensure the upliftment and revitalisation in terms of waste, crime, infrastructure and transport, alongside other developments such as the Point and port developments, "which are fundamental factors to boost tourism."

In its weekly eThekwini municipal bulletin, city officials have urged the public to adhere to the new beach by-laws. According to the municipality, the by-laws are aimed at managing, controlling and regulating public access and behaviour at beaches and beach areas.

SAPS spokesman Major Thulani Zwane said that visible policing unit members were conducting regular patrols to curb criminal activities on a 24-hour basis.

"We urge anyone with information on drug dealing in this area to contact us on 0860 010 111 so that our narcotics team can investigate and conduct special operations."

Metro had not responded to repeated requests for comment by the time of going to press.

The Indpendent on Saturday

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