Eveline de Klerk
Walvis Bay-Walvis Bay Municipality is at the centre of a battle raging between a group of Long Beach residents and residents of Walvis Bay.
Long Beach residents want the municipality to enforce its by-laws, hoping that this will restrict the general public from accessing certain areas of Long Beach, with the effect that unauthorised vehicles will not be able to drive along the beach.
Residents, especially those who have seafront houses, during a meeting held on Wednesday evening in Narraville said some non-residents who trespass have become a nuisance and cause them sleepless nights with their vehicles and loud music that sometimes lasts until the early morning hours.
The area in question is basically a public area, a kilometre-long stretch that is also a favourite spot where people enjoy the tidal pools, swimming and picnics. However, the general public opposed the idea of closing off the beach, saying prohibiting them to enter or drive along the beachfront is an infringement on their rights as citizens and should not even be entertained at all by the municipality.
Aggrieved Long Beach residents feel the municipality should restrict driving along the beach and especially in front of their homes, as it is a major concern to them, and want a lasting solution to be found by the local authority.
Some coastal residents, especially from Walvis Bay, opposed the suggestion, saying that those owning property at the popular holiday resort should take into account that they only own the piece of land their houses are built on. Some were even of the opinion that the Long Beach residents are exaggerating and want to privatise the beach for private use.
Walvis Bay resident Shali Saban explained that no person has the right to restrict or infringe on anybody’s right when it comes to accessing Namibia’s beaches, regardless whether it is by foot or vehicle. “Access to the beaches should remain open to everyone, as those residing at Long Beach and other beachfront areas only have a say within their [property] boundaries,” he said.
He then explained that everybody deserves to go to the beach or drive along the beach, as long as it is within municipal regulations. “Nobody can restrict anyone from entering or accessing beach, whether you own a plot right in front of the beach or not,” he said.
Another Walvis Bay resident, Ivan Marshall, said the ones making a nuisance of themselves are not usually coastal residents and tend to be people who visit the coast during Easter and December holidays. “You cannot punish us while we have done nothing wrong,” he said.
According to Walvis Bay municipal engineer Andre Burger, despite the complaints of the Long Beach residents being genuine, the municipality cannot punish everyone for the inconvenience caused by some culprits.
“Regardless of that, council when it sold the land to developers promised the general public that the movement of people and vehicles with regards to accessing the beach will not be restricted. However, the muncipality will enforce its by-laws,” he said.
He added that there is a need for council to revise its regulations in such a way that it does not infringe on the general public, but also does not disadvantage the resident of Long Beach.
A municipal by-law approved in 2004 that specifically addresses the control of vehicles and off-road driving, stipulates that: no person shall drive a vehicle in any closed restricted area; drive faster than 20 kilometres per hour on the seashore; drive or park a vehicle in such a way that it causes a nuisance or inconvenience to others; or drive a vehicle on a beach.
The municipal by-law also stipulates that driving a vehicle on the beach is allowed, except where the area is proclaimed or demarcated. “Beach area” includes all areas situated within 50 metres landwards, which are not privately owned and to which the public has access.