The Sting

In a rather off-key fanfare, the eThekwini Municipality announced this week its decision to lease part of the seabed - including Vetch's Beach - to itself for R1 000.00 per annum for a century in order for development of the Point area to commence.

Off-key - because this decision goes against both the laws of the country and the interests of the people of Durban who are the true owners of the area in question.  

Apart from the municipality itself, the only other nod of appreciation seems to come from developers - the municipality's 50% partner in this plan - who have for many years attempted to force this decision through municipal committees.  

Judging from the crumbling state of "developments" previously completed, the people of Durban stand to both lose a beach loved and used by all AND be left with a facade of constructions that merely serves to blot the landscape.  

Fortunately this announcement by the municipality does not mean that the so-called Point Development will become fact.  Before any chords are played, there are certain issues to deal with and questions to be answered.

In harmony and against the leasing of the seabed/destruction of Vetch's Beach is an orchestra consisting of:

-   Guardians of Vetch's beach - the people of Durban

-   The Save Vetch's Association

-   The legal opinion of senior local advocates

-   Some members of the eThekwini Municipality Executive Committee

-   The Department of Environmental Affairs, and

-   The Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism of South Africa

This article is written by a member of the first category: a citizen of Durban and a child of the beach.  Like so many others, I live in Durban because I love the thing.  This city without its beaches will be a creature without eyes and I will protect and fight for it and our lifestyle here against the greed of the few.

Despite factors such as apathy and life generally getting in the way, a band of committed and more vigilant citizens have formed the Save Vetch's Association and have been tracking events and communicating with formal structures regarding these events, preserving information and relaying the facts to the general community.  Their opinion is published below, as are those of various local advocates, followed by a response to this issue from  government structures.

It is, frankly, surprising that this issue is still on the table at all.  We will NOT hand over our beach.  Our seabed is NOT available to be leased - not for a century, not for 20 years, not at all.  

It is clear from the correspondence below that over the years this has repeatedly been made clear to the prospective developers.  

Perhaps it is time that they get the message now?  Because it seems they continue to count their chickens before they've hatched.  Screenshots taken over the months of one developer's website show a clear promise being made to potential investors that the final phase of developments at the Point "will overlook a small craft harbour"!  

Do we as the people of Durban now have to make the impossible sacrifice of our beach because of these deceitful promises?  Give up our heritage because of the airy castles built in the imagination of investors who have not been informed of the facts?

Apart from other concerns, the potential cost to the eThekwini Municipality itself, if the pressure to "develop" Vetch's continues, is immense:   that of credibility with informed investors.  The billions of investment allegedly lost due to delayed signing of the lease agreement is nothing compared to the losses that will be incurred when investors discover the lies that they have been told.  

But lets ensure that the blame for that is placed where it belongs and that Durban itself does not get damaged and blamed at the fall-out.