The beaches are free now let’s continue to free ourselves

May 25, 2013

The Beaches are FREE!

Yes the beaches are free now! Read about the path to this freedom below.

East Coast Radio Big Walk

This year’s East Coast Radio Big Walk was a wonderful celebration. People of every hue — race, class, gender and age — gathered to walk a good walk in beautiful conditions along Durban’s magnificent promenade and into the suburbs. Well done to ECR and the organisers who brought us all together to experience our city, country and continent at its best.

Fathers bragged about how they could out-walk their sons, children sprayed their water at all of us instead of drinking it. And for a few moments anyway we didn’t think at all about politics, race, class, ethnicity and the many challenges facing us. Instead, we just walked and enjoyed ourselves.

Walks give many moments for reflection and ours was to realize how far we have come and that, in spite of many challenges still facing us, we have a wonderful city and country that keeps getting better all the time. It is amazing how much the beachfront has changed.

Some History around Durban’s beachfront

We were talking about how in August 1989 there was a different march, also in yellow, but not the yellow of East Coast Radio. It was the yellow of the UDF, working under the leadership of the ANC who had declared that we should have campaigns of mass defiance, focused on day-to-day issues that affected ordinary people. We bussed ordinary, sick people to Addington hospital demanding that they be treated. At our insistence they did get treated.

Addington Hospital treats Black People for the first time

You may ask, though, what was exceptional about that? Well, that was the first time that black people were treated at Addington hospital. Even though the majority of employees of Addington Hospital in 1989 were black, they were not allowed to be treated there. And so our mass defiance started to work.

Apartheid beaches …. “Free the Beaches”.

We then took on the apartheid beaches and our UDF Durban Democratic Association organized a march to “Free the Beaches”. We arranged yellow visors and handed them out to those democrats who braved the thousands of blue-uniformed members of the apartheid police force who lined the old promenade. We had great “Free the beaches” T-shirts printed and in spite of much intimidation (dogs, harassment, and the like), the apartheid security forces had to let us go ahead and free the beaches. From that day onwards, Durban’s beaches have been opened to all races.

And now the new promenade has largely transformed those apartheid spaces.. They were places where black South Africans, only if they were servants, had separate entrances where they could not settle down to relax, let alone bathe, along the Golden Mile.

In place of that, we now have Durbanites coming out in massive numbers to celebrate East Coast Radio’s Big Walk. And what a celebration it was, with everyone enjoying themselves, laughing, being silly, spraying strangers with water and just thanking God that we are so blessed. Well done to all and sundry for putting on a simply great show.

The beaches are free now so … What about celebrating with the Largest South African Braai of all times?

And now that we are free, maybe it is time to end off the event next year with the largest South African braai ever, where, at the end of the walk, we all gather to have a braai and start talking to each other, not just walking with each other? That will be one way in which the more difficult path of creating nonracialism in action could be demonstrated. How about it Trish and Naveen?

Sue Bannister and Michael Sutcliffe
Partners: City Insight (Pty) Ltd: Urban Management Analysis, Insight and Advice.



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