UPDATE: Fate of Mpenjati’s nudist beach hangs in the balance

The proposed nudist beach.

THE Public Protector’s much awaited report has sparked a ‘tug of war’ between the South African National Naturist Association (SANNA) and the Concerned Citizens of Ray Nkonyeni Municipality (RNM).

This comes as the Public Protector was approached by pastors from the Concerned Citizens’ Group as they complained the municipality had approved an application in 2014 to have Mpenjati beach declared KwaZulu-Natal’s first official nudist retreat.

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Athol ‘Lofty’ Lutge, chairman of SANNA, said only once they had seen the outcome of the Public Protector’s report would they decide on what action to take.

He explained that the Public Protector only had the responsibility to ensure that the municipality followed the correct procedures and that, in his opinion, it did not have the authority to decide whether to declare Mpenjati beach a nudist beach or not, as the decision had already been made by RNM.

“The Concerned Citizens questioned whether the municipality had followed the correct procedures or not. The Public Protector might decide that they had not followed the correct procedures (I believe that they did). If so, then I believe that the application for a nudist beach would need to be considered after following the correct procedures.”

He added that they don’t want to make any legal threats, but are just saying that they are part of the International Naturist Federation, which has its own big cases worldwide and that they would get advice from their attorneys.

However, Pastor Reggie John of the Concerned Citizens, said they considered the ‘temporary closure’ of Mpenjati beach to naturists as a victory, and that they were confident the Public Protector would rule in their favour. He added that if it did not, they would consider legal action and would also take a closer look at the by-laws and laws of the country.

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Neither SANNA nor the Concerned Citizens’ Group has heard from the office of the Public Protector, as yet, and are eagerly awaiting their decision. The release of the protector’s report is expected some time this year. In the meantime, the signage erected along the beachfront in 2014 was removed by RNM late in December last year.

Mr Lutge said they are confident that the Public Protector will find more ‘positives than negatives’ for them. “We will take no decision until we have seen the results. But, we will not lie down and do nothing,” he said. Mr Lutge pointed out that there are 30-million naturists around the world and that South Africa would be missing out on the economic benefits.

Pastor John said they are opposing the beach on both moral and ethical grounds. He said they have to consider what is happening on the ground locally (for example the rise of prostitution and the poorer communities) and to not base a nudist beach on international facts and figures.

He pointed out that children should not be exposed to nudity, which is illegal in South Africa, and further questioned who was going to police the beach – clothed or unclothed police officers?

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Another point raised by Pastor John was the issue that naturists want basically to privatise their own beach. “The seashore belongs to the people of South Africa and you can’t take a piece of that and give it to a specific group, as next minute everyone will want to own their own private beach,” he added.

Mr Lutge explained that he had recently met with 20 different national, provincial and local tourism authorities at the African continent’s largest trade show for the business events industry -Meetings Africa 2017 – held at Sandton Convention Centre in Gauteng.

“None of them was disgusted about the concept, but actually didn’t know that naturist resorts bring huge economic spin-offs, and were keen to support it.”

Mr Lutge labelled those who opposed the nudist beach as narrow-minded and stressed that naturism has nothing to do with anything erotic or with sex, but was, in fact, a lifestyle.

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  AUTHOR
Shona Aylward
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