GEORGE NEWS - George Municipality acknowledges the frustration and disappointment prospective lifesavers experienced after the closure of beaches over the December holiday season.
The President's announcement of the beach closures came in the midst of the lifesavers' appointment process, which was then halted.
This comes after a reader approached George Herald with complaints that hopeful lifeguards were left high and dry when beaches were closed down.
After forking out R500 to join the Life Saving and Surfers Club, not all the lifeguards were given contracts and, when beaches opened again, they were told that high season was over and only a few managed to clinch a job.
The reader also alleged that lifeguards were advised to buy their own wetsuits, in the light of Covid-19 health issues.
In reaction to George Herald's enquiries, the George Municipality said applications were processed as they were received (first come, first served), provided all their documentation was complete and in order, including the necessary annual national compliance training.
"To have extended contracts to people who would have worked a few days on rotation or not at all, may have then been considered wasteful expenditure according to the Municipal Finance Management Act, which the municipality was not willing to risk," said communications officer Athane Scholtz.
She also noted that the buying of wetsuits was not a municipal requirement.
"The municipality provided lifesavers with rescue equipment, including torpedo buoys, medical bags and uniforms as well as face masks, cleaning soap (Handy Andy) and sanitiser," she said.
"The municipality also has a responsibility towards all its citizens to keep the bigger picture in mind and to save costs wherever it can so that projects such as the appointment of lifesavers remain viable in the years to come, when full teams are once again required."
The municipality believes that for committed lifesavers, the investment in retraining and any additional gear they buy at their own discretion, is not a waste, as it will benefit themselves and the people they guard for as long as they want to be involved in these programmes.
"We thank every lifesaver who wanted to participate in this programme for their willingness to be part of the lifesaving team and hope they will consider joining us or another municipality's lifesaving teams in future when life returns to some kind of normal," said Scholtz.
The number of lifesavers was reduced even further after the holiday peak and municipal lifesavers are now only present at Herold's Bay and Victoria Bay beaches on Saturdays and Sundays until Easter Weekend.
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