The City of Cape Town has denied a claim on a neighbourhood Facebook page that it closed the toilets at Big Bay beach in Bloubergstrand on New Year's Day to save water, forcing beachgoers to relieve themselves in the open. "The public toilet at Big Bay was briefly closed to the public just after 18:00 on New Year's Day to facilitate cleaning of the facility," said Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security and Social Services, JP Smith.
"The owner of the service provider contracted to do the cleaning was on site at the time and explained the situation to members of the public, some of whom were unfortunately less than understanding.
"The toilet was reopened after cleaning and was only closed for the day at 19:30."
The issue was raised by the mother of someone who works at the beach on the West Coast.
Her daughter said some beachgoers had decided to relieve themselves against walls nearby or in the sand. They understood that the toilets were closed to save water and were upset that people visiting the beach would have expected to find open toilets, and would have had nowhere to go.
One of the people who commented on the apparent toilet closure suggested the closure may have been "political" due to the anticipated increased numbers of people expected on New Year's Day. Smith said only the water at the wash basins and showers had been cut to save water. This forms part of action the City has taken to save water during a serious drought. The City reported that this year, many of its popular beaches were "decidedly more quiet", with about 30 000 people on Muizenberg, 12 000 at Strandfontein Pavilion, 8 000 at Strand and 3 000 at Monwabisi. Smith said that, apart from the cleaning break, the toilets were fully functional. Big Bay beach is backed by a strip of popular restaurants and bars, holiday apartments, and a retail complex.
It is a popular spot for surfers, sunseekers, and photographers, keen to take a picture of Table Mountain from a distance.It is currently being rehabilitated, using emergency funding after the massive "Dik Wednesday" storm of June 7 seriously damaged the shoreline.When News24 visited Big Bay on Wednesday morning, the toilets were open and were spotlessly clean. Contract worker Mavis Spele was mopping the floor.
She said that the loos had been flooded in one part of the ablution block on New Year's Day, so they had to close and clean.Ann Fish, area manager for contract cleaners Top n Nos, said she sets off early every morning from Grassy Park where she lives, and, starting at Melkbosstrand, opens the toilet blocks every day, making sure they are cleaned properly."Look, they took the taps out to save water and they put hand sanitiser in for people to clean their hands, but the toilets are open and they are working," she said to News24 as she and supervisor Bridgette Nell checked in on cleaners working at the Dolphin Beach toilet block.
"I do 10 toilet blocks right down to Lagoon Beach and I open them up every day," said Fish.
The issue of beach cleanliness during the high season became a sensitive topic after a massive debate, following a Facebook post by KwaZulu-Natal woman Penny Sparrow in 2016, who blamed black beachgoers for litter and called them "monkeys". The Equality Court in Umzinto fined her R150 000 for hate speech, and an additional R5 000 after she pleaded guilty to crimen injuria in the Scottburgh Magistrate's Court. Sparrow apologised for the post.