City steps up for New Year’s celebrations

A busy Strand beachfront on Tweede Nuwejaar, on Thursday January 2. Picture: Supplied

With New Year’s Day celebrations done, City of Cape Town executive mayor, Dan Plato lauded City staff who had put in a major effort to ensure public safety.

“Our staff deserve a huge thank you for the role they play on the front line, but also behind the scenes in making the festive season safer for our residents and visitors. I don’t think many people realise how much work and sacrifice goes into our planning, execution and monitoring to ensure that they and their loved ones enjoy what Cape Town has to offer, and make it home safely. The festive season peak is now behind us, but there is still plenty of work to be done with events like the Minstrel Street Parade on the horizon, as well as a few more weekends of fun in the sun before the new school year gets under way. Let’s continue working together to ensure that it is an enjoyable time for all,” he said.

The City’s enforcement agencies, assisted by the disaster risk management centre, were present on all of the major beaches and routes leading to and from these areas.

The brief was to ensure a visible policing presence, enforce by-laws and transgressions of the National Road Traffic Act.

The festivities were not without mishap, with law enforcement staff kept busy confiscating alcohol on beaches.

In the Helderberg region, 573 units of alcohol were confiscated, while at Muizenberg, staff confiscated 1 014 units of alcohol. The liquor enforcement unit is still in the process of finalising the tally of alcohol confiscated from all beaches.

“Alcohol use and the associated anti-social behaviour on our beaches and other public spaces remains one of our biggest headaches over the festive season. Not only does it mar the day out for everyone else, but it also makes the job of lifeguards more difficult when drunk persons enter the water. Later, when they get into their vehicles to drive home, they put other road users at risk, and of course the potential for conflict even when they arrive home remains great. The impact is far-reaching and potentially devastating, and hopefully pause for thought to those who criticise the City for confiscating their alcohol,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith.

The City’s public emergency communication centre fielded 37 calls about the illegal sale of fireworks and 111 complaints about the discharge of fireworks from various areas across the metropole. The City’s law enforcement department confiscated 11 570 units of fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

There were 13 fatal drowning incidents between October 23 and December 20. Of those, 11 happened outside designated bathing areas and one happened after hours, when lifeguards had gone off shift.

In the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, there were eight incidents where lifeguards assisted bathers who had gotten into trouble. In at least two of the incidents, the patients had dived into tidal pools and hit their heads.

On New Year’s Day, lifeguards assisted at least six individuals who had either gotten into difficulty while swimming, or injured themselves on the beach.

Among them was a 65-year-old woman who sustained a broken leg at St. James. Lifeguards stabilised her and moved her to the first aid room until an ambulance arrived.

Another woman hurt her knee at Strandfontein Beach and was assisted by lifeguards, and at Clovelly Beach, lifeguards assisted two 28-year-old men who had been caught in a rip current.

“I am immensely grateful to our lifeguards, the other sea rescue and enforcement agencies and of course our Identikidz team for the herculean effort to keep the public safe on one of our biggest beach days of the year. While staff had their hands full with a host of incidents in the water and on the beaches, there were no fatal drownings reported on New Year’s Day – the first time since the 2016/17 festive season. That said, there are still far too many incidents where people get into trouble because they do not abide by the instructions of lifeguards, leave their children unsupervised or consume alcohol before entering the water. We need to realise that swimming requires cool heads and vigilance at all times. One wrong move can end in tragedy,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien. 

The Identikidz project, which is facilitated by the City’s social development and early childhood development department, saw 87 386 children tagged at 16 beaches between the project launch in mid-December and Thursday January. In that period, 286 children who were lost were reunited with their families. 

Just shy of 25 000 children were tagged between Monday the 30th of December and New Year’s Day, with 192 cases where children were lost.

The Identikidz project will run until the last weekend before schools reopen, Saturday January 11 and Sunday January12, and parents/caregivers are urged to make use of the service to keep their little ones safe while out at the beach.