African Bathing Beach

Social interactions within Durban were racially segregated long before the formal introduction of apartheid. This applied not only to residential areas, but economic, cultural and social spaces too, including swimming beaches. When “Bay Beach” on the harbour-side was developed in 1857, the facilities were reserved for the use of white residents. The more remote, rougher beaches on the Indian Ocean, known as “Back Beach” only came into use after the turn of the 20th century. Renamed “Ocean Beach” the area was transformed into a seaside attraction with piers, boardwalks and a swimming enclosure intended for the use of white bathers, although racial segregation on beaches was not yet enforced by law.
A stretch of beach at Vetch’s Pier was set aside for African bathers in 1929, and beach segregation was introduced by Natal Provincial Notice No. 206 of 1930. Despite lacking any facilities, including life-savers, large numbers of African and Indian residents visited the beaches allocated to their communities. After apartheid was established in 1948 the National Party government imposed segregation more strictly. The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953 was amended to include beaches in 1960, followed by further regulations. In particular, the Reservation of Separate Amenities Ordinance No. 37 (Natal), segregated all of Durban’s beaches according to race group, and reserved the safest and most conveniently located beaches for whites. The “African Bathing Beach” was relocated to this site, now renamed “Laguna Beach”. Regardless of efforts relax racist discrimination on beaches during the late 1970s and 1980s, these laws were only repealed in October 1990.

Location

Address: Snell Parade
GPS Points: -29.85286, 31.02419
Site Contact Details: Steven Kotze
Durban Local History Museums
steven.kotze@durban.gov.za
031 311 2239

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