Mountain safety row

Caryn Dolley

A MOUNTAIN safety action group has sought legal advice to see if the more than 270 people who have fallen victim to crime on mountains around Cape Town can take class action against SANParks and the city.

If the class action is not feasible, the group will turn to the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela.

This is in response to the latest incident on the mountain – the rape of a 19-year-old Norwegian exchange student when she and her boyfriend were attacked on Signal Hill over the weekend.

No arrests have been made.

Yesterday Andre van Schalkwyk, head of the Table Mountain Safety Action Group formed years ago in reaction to the high number of mountain-related crimes, said: “There’s liability here. There needs to be some kind of class action for people who were hurt in these incidents.”

He said he was acting out of “sheer desperation and anger” and had sought legal advice.

Yesterday a closed meeting between SANParks, the city, the police, Cape Town Tourism and other authorities, was held to discuss the Signal Hill attack and decide on security measures.

A joint statement by SANParks, the police and the city said measures would include an application by SANParks to the city to control access to Signal Hill Road and Tafelberg Road between 10pm and 5pm.

Up to three SANParks members would man the control point.

Late in 2011 access to Signal Hill and Table Mountain was controlled during those hours as a temporary measure to curb crimes.

At the time, only accredited

tour operators and people with night permits were allowed to gain access to the mountain in cars during those hours.

Yesterday’s statement said: “Vehicles will not be prohibited from entering but the details of the vehicle and its occupants will be logged at the entry and access points.”

It was decided at the meeting that a CCTV camera at the Signal Hill parking area would be refurbished to increase its coverage “and clarity of images”.Ways to improve lighting of the area would be also examined.

The Cape Town Central Community Police Forum would also look into installing licence plate recognition cameras at the exit and entry points.

Despite these extra security measures, Van Schalkwyk said, he had got to the point where he felt enough was enough. He questioned the implementation of controlled access to Table Mountain and Signal Hill, saying this implied authorities could not secure the mountain.

Van Schalkwyk said since 2007, more than 270 people had become crime victims on mountains, including Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and the Cape Point area, around the city. A number of people had been seriously injured.

“Their lives have been changed forever. When you go visit them in hospital, you see this… I have no idea if something like this could work. But it’s absolutely worth a try.”

If lawyers agreed that class action was possible, Van Schalkwyk would contact the victims, including tourists who had left the country, and ask them to write statements.

He would approach Madonsela if the class action did not pan out. “At least then someone can look at this in a dispassionate manner and maybe say yes, someone is accountable.”

Yesterday Cape Town Tourism chief executive officer Mariette du Toit-Helmbold said the recent Signal Hill attack had happened after a period during which there had been an increase in confidence that the city was safe.

“The tourism industry condemns incidents of crime strongly and we are outraged by this incident,” she said.

Police spokesman Andre Traut said a rape and robbery case was being investigated.

He said the student and her South African friend were robbed by two armed men. They were driven to Summergreens, Milnerton. The men raped the student on the way to Milnerton, where they ran away.

The Norwegian Consulate declined to comment.

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