Sorry, but given that this story basically hogged the headlines from Christmas through to New Year’s, we have to dip our toes into the water.
By now, you know about #ReclaimClifton, or #OccupyClifton, or #CliftonBeach, or any of the other hashtags used after an incident that occurred on Clifton Beach on December 23.
If you don’t, congrats on tuning out the news during your holiday break.
We won’t rehash what happened (I’m sure you have heard all about the sheep slaughter incident pictured above, where Chumani Maxwele was once again present), because now, for the first time, the head of the security company at the centre of the row has given his version of events.
Alwyn Landman, CEO of Professional Protection Alternatives (PPA), gave a written statement to the Sunday Times, which has also been covered on TimesLIVE.
He claims to have “verified the facts”, with these standing out:
First up, here’s the photo that he shared, showing people still on the beach at 8:30PM:
Landman is also furious with the initial reporting on the story, which he calls “unsubstantiated fake news which caused unnecessary, unwarranted and uncalled for demonstrations and dissension amongst racial groups”.
OK, so let’s get to Landman’s version of how things played out:
Landman said three PPA guards — two coloured and one white — were on duty in Clifton on December 23.
Riaan Botha, the officer who approached Jacobs and his party, wanted to give them a “heads-up” as there had been numerous reports of theft that day on the adjacent Third Beach.
“Botha pointed out to Jacobs that there were still unsavoury elements on Third Beach and that he and his family should be vigilant.
“Botha stated that [City of Cape Town] Law Enforcement had closed the beach at approximately 8 o’clock on the 16th of December 2018 due to numerous incidents of crime.
“Jacobs enquired from Botha, ‘Do you know who I am?’ Botha said he did not. Jacobs said that he was the secretary of the ANC in the Western Cape.
“A woman then enquired of [Botha] whether he was a police officer. He confirmed that he was not. The woman then stated, ‘that’s why you have to come to the beach with a lawyer’.
“Botha walked away as he perceived Jacobs and the lady as being aggressive. Jacobs and his party were the last to leave the beach that night.”
Faiez Jacobs, of course, had a very different version of events:
“Men in uniform ordered us to leave the beach,” he said, adding that the incident and the response to it by mayor Dan Plato “were symptomatic of … just how far apart white and black SA are”.
He added: “It has also exposed the insensitivity, convenient amnesia and inconvenient truth of the racial denialism of our painful past among the majority of white South Africans.”
One thing is for sure – there were plenty of people who enjoyed themselves on Clifton Beach this festive season:
— Babalwa (@Beemagqwanti) January 1, 2019
Another video from the same day:
ok we left after this but Wow pic.twitter.com/2luApE32rY
— Babalwa (@Beemagqwanti) January 1, 2019
By the way, if you’re freaking out about that “kill all white people” shirt that fuelled further anger, you might be missing the full picture:
You can read more about that shirt here.
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato has also entered the fray, publishing an opinion piece on TimesLIVE titled “Race-baiting and political opportunism at the heart of Clifton drama”.
He is adamant that what happened on December 23 was not a race-related incident. Over to Dan:
When I found out that people of all races – and not particular race groups as was claimed – were asked – and not forced as alleged- to leave a Clifton beach by a private security company due to safety concerns, I was angered by the ANC’s deliberate misrepresentation of the incident for political gain.
I have since met with the security company, PPA, and the local ratepayers who hired PPA as a consequence of criminal activities on and around Clifton beach in recent weeks, to hear them out. I have also walked the beaches and engaged with a number of beachgoers about their experiences.
I learnt that on December 23, after sunset, two private security staffers began informing beach-goers it was not safe to be on the beach after dark and for their own safety it would be in their interest to leave. No aggression was shown and no particular race groups were singled out.
Faiez Jacobs, the ANC provincial secretary, was on the beach that night and chose to issue a media release a day later with accusations about “reintroducing apartheid” and “ending beach apartheid”. He failed to concede that he had been free to stay at the beach with his family if he chose to take that risk. Instead, he saw an opportunity to once again bang the racist drum against Cape Town. Nobody else had complained and no official complaints were received.
We all know that political opportunism is rife in South Africa, and the DA is no exception, but Plato also had harsh words for those that fanned the social media flames, as well as those who turned up to protest on December 28:
Social media has sadly established itself as the go-to battleground for those seeking to misrepresent information. Despite about 10,000 tweets and retweets involving the hashtag #ReclaimClifton on Friday December 28, fewer than 50 “protesters” showed up on the beach in the evening, and about the same number on Saturday.
I was there on the Friday to greet the protesters and tried to engage some of them but they had no interest in hearing anyone else’s view.
One of the photos that continuously pops up shows PPA Security and city law enforcement officers together on the beach, although Plato says that this is also a misrepresentation:
This photo was not taken on December 23, as many claimed as evidence of the city’s “official and contracted relationship” with PPA, but on December 16, when the city’s law enforcement officers returned from an anti-poaching operation and PPA members came down to the beach and walked alongside them. The City has no contract or any official relationship with PPA.
The media, however, were happy to attach to their articles this photo of armed security and law enforcement, suggesting it was this group that had approached beachgoers. On the day in question there were only two private guards on duty.
Given that there are so many parties trying to save face here, and so much emotion involved, we may never know exactly what happened on December 23.
Perhaps 2019 will be the year that South Africa’s political parties stop trying to score cheap points and create division at every opportunity, and if you believe that, you’ll believe just about anything.
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