Public drinking wrecks beach


THOUSANDS of New Year revellers drank
openly in public and trashed Port Alfred’s beaches and braai areas despite
assurances by police and the municipality they would clamp down this year.

Rain put a damper on festivities on New
Year’s Day which saw fewer people than usual at Port Alfred’s beaches, but
throngs of revellers still partied hard at the town’s braai areas and in the
Heritage Mall parking lot, where carloads of people drank alcohol in their
vehicles and a long queue waited to get into the Pick n Pay liquor store.

Although police turned a blind eye to the vast
majority of public drinking, they made 20 arrests for drunk and disorderly
behaviour, with one incident turning nasty in the West Beach
parking lot when a few drunk revellers resisted arrest.

BEACH AND BOOZE: Public drinking at the
beaches was not limited to New Year’s Day. This man was part of a group downing
quarts of beer at Kariega Blue Flag Beach in Kenton-on-Sea last Saturday

“The SAPS’ main focus on the day was
safety and security,” said police spokesman Lieutenant
Luvuyo Mjekula.

“SAPS concentrated on people who were
causing problems and were a risk to themselves and others. They were removed
and detained. After they had sobered up, relevant fines were issued and they
were released,” he said.

Contradicting earlier promises by mayor
Sipho Tandani and the police that no liquor would be allowed on the beach, Mjekula
said: “Port Alfred does not have metro police to enforce bylaws like it happens
in cities like Cape Town and Durban.”

Police were not part of access control
to the beaches, he added. Control points were manned by traffic officials in
accordance with a plan approved by council.

The municipality deployed 20 volunteers
to help enforce the bylaws, but they appeared to have made no impact on the public
drinking spree.

At an earlier planning meeting for New
Year’s Day, Captain Jacques Barkhuizen, who filled in for station commander
Colonel Lizette Zeelie, said no camping would be allowed along the Kowie River,
but TotT came across several impromptu campsites.

Mjekula said people camping in tents
were “approached by the SAPS and warned”. No further action was taken.

Aside from public drinking and the
arrests made for drunk and disorderly behaviour, no incidents of crime were reported,
he said.

“The public’s response was generally
positive and Colonel Zeelie would like to thank the crowds for their good
spirit as that made sure we had an incident-free New Year’s Day.”

COMMON SIGHT: Liquor bottles and cans
littered Port Alfred’s West
Beach on the morning of
January 2, after the revelry of New Year’s Day Picture: JON HOUZET

Coast Care beach cleaners started early on
January 2 and by 7.30am had filled hundreds of refuse bags with bottles, cans
and other litter collected from West
Beach, the parking lot
and the Beach Road
braai pens. Broken glass still lay on the grass and tar.

During a five minute walk on the beach TotT
came across still more beer cans and assorted beer and spirit bottles, some of
them smashed, the shards posing a hazard for unsuspecting beachgoers.

A walk along West Pier revealed more broken
bottles, accompanied by the stench of human faeces.

A reveller also defecated at the top of the
boardwalk at Kelly’s Blue Flag Beach, with strips of newspaper used as toilet
paper. A Coast Care worker later removed the excrement with a spade.

Municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said the
municipality was still putting together an assessment report for how New Year’s
Day went.

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