New Year’s Day Durban Beach: An Important Message and Photos

Crowded beach fronts over the new year’s period have become a sensitive point for racism and irresponsible social media comments in South Africa over the past two years… writes Johannesburg-based photographer JONATHAN WOOD.

The comments of Penny Sparrow in a tweet last year began: “These monkeys that are allowed to be released on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day onto public beaches…”

This rant attracted huge amounts of racial tensions and slander on social media, it eventually came to a close with Penny Sparrow losing her job at Jawitz Real Estate and having to pay a fine of R150,000 to Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation.

Almost a year to the day Limpopo man Philip Roodt ranted on facebook in a hugely racist post referring to black South Africans on the beach as cockroaches and ended off by saying “I hope the f**kers drown one by one”.

The comments and racial tension caused by such posts have flamed the fire of racism and segregation still burning 23 years into democracy, becoming completely counter productive to an integrated and progressive South Africa.

My response to such tensions was to go spend the 1st of January on Durban’s North Beach, one of the most crowded spaces, and photograph what I saw.

The sheer volume of people on the beach was overwhelming from a distance… but an incredibly different story amongst the crowds, showing me that most of the irresponsible comments were made from observations at a distance and lined with fear of black South Africans in large numbers.

Those people Philip Roodt claimed he would like to see drown one by one were mostly children and families enjoying a day at the beach… without the luxuries of spending multiple days on holiday and exploring the serenity of an uncrowded beach.

Durban city handled the day with the utmost professionalism, only allowing cars with permits to enter roads on the beach front and by having adequate life guards, security and emergency services available.

Public drinking was not allowed and tents were erected every few hundred meters for children who had become separated from their families. Children were given wrist bands where parents contact details were written.

As you could expect in any large crowds the day was full of excitement bizarre characters and the minority of trouble causers who were efficiently dealt with by police and security.

durban beach news year day

durban beach news year day1


This is an excerpt from a photo essay by Jonathan Wood, published here with his kind permission. Read the full text and view more images on

JONATHAN WOOD is a Johannesburg-based photographer focused on the social conditions and ills of the South African society.

His work is a photographic dialogue and platform to inform and comment about many of South Africa’s current issues.

Follow Jonathan Wood: