Coast KZN

06 Nov 2019

Plans in the pipeline to ensure beaches remain open during festive season

Penny Fourie (North Coast Courier) Picture: Thompson's Bay has been closed for swimming on five occasions in the past month. (Photo:

In the last month one of Ballito’s most popular beaches has been closed for swimming on five separate occasions. With the festive season fast approaching local authorities say they will be prepared to handle the arrival of the masses but the Thompson’s Bay beach closures have raised doubts among residents.

Municipal officials said the first beach closure was as a result of the KwaDukuza lifeguards having to undergo their compulsory annual fitness evaluation and medical competency test prior to the start of the holiday season.

The municipality’s marine safety manager Steve Honneysett said: “On Friday, October 25 we sent half of our lifeguards into eThekwini for testing and left the other half to patrol the beaches. We strictly adhere to our beach policy and standards where we cannot open up a swimming area if we are under staffed so we had one lifeguard on the beach to control the public but he was not allowed to open the bathing area. This happened again on Monday, October 28 when the second batch of lifeguards underwent their retesting.”

“Last weekend two lifeguards failed to report for duty due to illness so we had no choice but to keep one lifeguard on the beach and keep the bathing area closed.”

“Three lifeguards failed their retest and had to go back on Sunday to be re-evaluated so we had to follow the same procedure. All beaches are now back to normal.”

Honneysett was confident they would be ready for the influx of holiday makers.

“We are recruiting 50 additional lifeguards to cover the holiday season and they will be on contract with us for two months, increasing safety for locals and visitors alike and making up any shortfall in staff. We intend to have them in place so that we can cover the matric rage week and the holiday season ending in January 2020,” said Honneysett.

From November 20, lifeguards will be working 12 hour shifts starting from 6am to 6pm and over the public holidays when the beaches get really busy they will be on patrol until the beaches are cleared.

A study conducted by Netcare 911 showed that KwaZulu-Natal has the highest deaths related to drowning, with 40 percent of the national statistics. Coastal areas account for 69 percent of drowning incidents, with 55 percent of incidents occurring in summer.

Last year IPSS Medical Rescue recorded: 107 water rescues, nine mass rescues, two near drownings and one inland drowning. Stats for this year were not yet available.

KwaDukuza lifeguard supervisor Bongani Xulu said the Dolphin Coast had been fortunate to only have the one drowning at Sheffield Beach over the previous festive season.  Xulu said 2018 had been a relatively quiet festive period in terms of beach emergencies. There were several rescues at Willard Bay as swimmers got into trouble; a near-drowning at Salt Rock beach on New Year’s Day where two intoxicated people were washed out; and multiple rescues at Black Rock in Zinkwazi of more intoxicated beachgoers.

Xulu also appealed to beachgoers to obey the lifeguards.

“The public must not swim at night or at beaches that are not guarded by lifeguards,” said Xulu.