Water sports clubs in Durban making waves
Durban’s Vetch’s Beach, the scene of protests last festive season over the exclusion of black people from a water sports club operating on municipal land, is back in the news.
Two of the occupants of the precinct – the Point Yacht Club and the Durban Undersea Club – went to the Durban High Court after the Durban Undersea Club sought an interdict on Thursday to stop members of the yacht club from building a wall separating the two clubs.
The two clubs are part of the proposed Point Water Sports Club that will be built by the city. The clubs had operated separately on city beachfront land, but the Durban Undersea Club and Point Yacht Club set up a joint clubhouse in terms of an agreement between them and the city in 2013.
In terms of the agreement, the Durban Undersea Club would run the main restaurant and public facilities, while the individual clubs would be responsible for their sporting activities, until the construction of the Point Water Sports Club takes place.
However, a dispute arose between the two clubs over the use of membership fees and the operation of the restaurant, which excluded certain races. It became the scene of protests organised by the ANC Youth League last January.
The dispute went to arbitration, which failed. The Point Yacht Club then decided to rebuild a boundary wall between the two clubs. After building materials were delivered to the Point Yacht Club side of the clubhouse last week, the Durban Undersea Club went to court on Friday to stop the wall from being built.
In the court papers, Durban Undersea Club secretary Leigh Phillips said that the club – which had operated on the premises for 65 years and had more than 3 200 members – had spent R3.5 million on renovations to join the two clubhouses and to upgrade the kitchen and restaurant area. Thirty permanent and 10 casual staff had been employed.
Phillips said the Point Yacht Club had become “frustrated” with the process and decided to “take the law into its own hands” and build a wall between the two clubs. “[This] would be akin to resolving a dispute between the passengers on a ship at sea by sawing the ship in half,” he said.
In addition, building a wall would deny the Durban Undersea Club access to the main kitchen, which is on the Point Yacht Club side of the facility, Phillips said, saying that it would also prevent the Durban Undersea Club from running its restaurants, which are a major source of income.
In his response, the Point Yacht Club asked the court to strike the application for an interdict off the court roll.
Point Yacht Club commodore Craig Millar said in papers that while the yacht club had agreed to hold on building the wall when it was informed of the Durban Undersea Club’s application, the agreement between the clubs had been violated by the Durban Undersea Club.
Millar said that the Durban Undersea Club had pulled out of an arbitration hearing earlier this year, forcing the Point Yacht Club to decide to rebuild a wall behind its clubhouse.
He accused Durban Undersea Club chairperson Cuane Hall of attempting to manipulate the agreement to build a “superclub” and secure control of the future precinct.