Cape Town to sue tourist for mountain fire

The City of Cape Town intends to pursue a civil claim against the tourist whose lit cigarette allegedly caused the fire on Table Mountain in late January when he apparently tossed it out of his car window.

Briton Anthony Cooper, 36, who appeared on an arson charge in the Cape Town magistrate's court on March 31, is, in terms of his bail conditions, restricted to the Western Cape.

The case was postponed to May 26 to allow a post mortem to be conducted on British tourist Janet Chewsworth, 65, who died of smoke inhalation.

If the city's claim succeeds, the money paid out will help pay for preventative measures - the provisional cost is R3-million - to reduce risks arising from flooding or mudslides into upper City Bowl homes this winter.

Mudslides are common with the onset of winter rains on terrain that has been devastated by fire.

The city council points out that apart from the risk they pose to life and property, mudslides also disrupt city services.

Mayor Helen Zille has ordered officials to hotly pursue smokers found guilty of tossing their cigarette ends out of car windows, with a view to recouping money for fire-related expenses.

She made the request during Wednesday's Mayco meeting of a report on measures to prevent mudslides in the upper City Bowl.

The executive director of transport, roads and stormwater, Mike Marsden, said he believed a good plan, developed with SA National Parks, was in place.

But the city would probably have to provide the bulk of the money. "It may be possible (to recoup this) by claiming from the person who threw down his stompie, in a civil case."

Zille responded: "Yes, we must sue. We must make sure people pay. And the British visitor has to pay in pounds."

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