In reaction to thousands of swimmers flocking to the Berg River in recent weeks, the Drakenstein Municipality has issued new, stricter regulations for local swimmers and visitors to the river, to adhere to.
Riana Geldenhuys, spokesperson for the Drakenstein Municipality said the municipality received numerous complaints after more than 2 000 visitors descended upon the Berg River to seek relief from the heatwave experienced in the area during the end of January.
In response to the issue, an urgent meeting was called by Alderman Conrad Poole, Executive Mayor of Drakenstein Municipality, and Dr Johan Leibbrandt, City Manager, early last week to discuss the way forward. “The Municipality supports the utilisation of this natural resource in an orderly, safe and responsible manner,” the municipality stated.
The outcome of the meeting was the implementation of new, stricter regulations to manage the swimming in the river.
Community leader and chairperson of GOOD in the Drakenstein, Pastor Edgar Arendse welcomed the new regulations. “The implementation of the regulations is definitely a good thing as it will bring back and restore more control to the area and in this way, it will be able to help with the protection of the people’s lives.”
Mr Arendse notes there has been an increase of people swimming and visiting the river this year. “This is the very reason there should be regular policing by law enforcement agencies.”
Some of the regulations implemented by the Drakenstein municipality, include the prohibition of any alcohol brought in the vicinity with roadblocks set-up to police this, cars found to be parked at the river illegally will be towed away and after frightening videos were shared online of people daringly jumping off the Arboretum Bridge to dive into the river, this bridge will as per new regulatory measures have controlled access and be cordoned off.
“Working together with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other safety network partners, the Municipality will deploy additional law enforcement officers and members of its Tactical Response Unit. The consumption of alcohol, open fires, loud music, illegal parking or public nuisance will not be tolerated,” the municipality warned.
Furthermore, parking areas are available for minibus taxis and public transportation. Roadblocks and vehicle spot checks will be implemented to police and prevent people from driving under the influence.
The municipality has also made chemical public toilets available in response to calls for ablution facilities. In efforts to prevent pollution, rubbish bags will be issued and distributed among visitors with appointed collection points and those found to be littering will be fined. The municipality also announced the area will from now close at 8pm, so it can be cleaned, and rubbish disposed of.
“The Municipality strongly discourages swimming in the Berg River due to whirlpools and some areas that are unexpectedly deeper than others. Over the past few years and as recently as this weekend, people lost their lives while swimming in the river. Those who do enter the water, do so at own risk,” concluded Executive mayor, Conrad Poole.