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S. AFRICANS `SWIM AND LET SWIM’ AS BEACH SEGREGATION ENDS

SHARE S. AFRICANS `SWIM AND LET SWIM’ AS BEACH SEGREGATION ENDS

Black and white children helped each other build sandcastles. Their older brothers played soccer together. White lifeguards shouted warnings in Zulu.

After years of debate, protests and occasional violence, South Africa has opened all its beaches to all races and buried one of its most visible and resented apartheid practices.As recently as August, police used whips and dogs to keep blacks off segregated sand. But at Durban's hotel-lined beachfront, the busiest in the country, the attitude Sunday was swim and let swim.

"I preferred segregated beaches," said Charles Erasmus, a vacationing white. "But what am I going to do? Spite myself and not go swimming? The law's been changed and we'll have to accept it."

President F.W. de Klerk last month declared an end to whites-only beaches, settling a conflict that arose every December when hundreds of thousands of South Africans travel to the coast for vacation.

For authorities, opening the beaches has proved far easier than keeping them segregated in the face of mounting black protest.

Shortly before de Klerk's declaration, the Durban City Council spent six hours debating whether to open the last remaining stretches of segregated beach.

Their solution: Remove the embarrassing "Whites Only" signs but keep the law in effect. Days after de Klerk's announcement, the council voted 24-5 to integrate the beaches.

Morris Fynn, a mixed-race man who was arrested several times for cutting down "Whites Only" beach signs, ceremoniously buried his saw in the sand to mark the formal death of beach apartheid.

Three years ago, Allan Hendrickse, the first mixed-race member of the Cabinet, invited reporters to watch him take a dip at a whites-only beach at Port Elizabeth.

One of his next public acts was to apologize for his swim after being rebuked by then-President P.W. Botha.

Anti-apartheid groups targeted beaches when they launched a nationwide defiance campaign in August.

When protesters arrived at a beach near Cape Town, it was cordoned off and accompanied by signs saying, "Police Dog Training In Progress."

When the demonstrators proceeded, they were met with tear gas, whips and police dogs. Several people were injured.

Local authorities have complied with de Klerk's proclamation.