Cape Town - Stakeholders and users of the Table Mountain National Park have raised their concerns regarding SANParks’ apparent delayed response in rebuilding the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant after it was burnt to the ground in the runaway mountain fire across the mountain in April.
While SANParks announced the reopening of Quarries, Devil’s Peak, King’s Blockhouse, Devil’s Peak Lower Slopes and Rhodes Contour Path – Rhodes Memorial/Estate, Game Camp and Deer Park were still closed as there were dangerous trees that needed to be cut.
Friends Of Table Mountain (FOTM) chairperson Andy Davies said their main concern was that without sufficient public pressure, a prolonged wait will be experienced before the restaurant is reopened and functioning.
“SANParks’ business operations are founded on three important core pillars, one of which is socio-economic Development. The Rhodes Memorial restaurant provides much needed jobs, and this precinct is a popular tourist attraction within TMNP.
“FOTM urges SANParks to follow through with their policy and provide all necessary assistance to expedite rebuilding of the restaurant,” said Davies.
Davies said one of the points in their FOTM 8-point recovery plan was “Tourism and Events Opportunities” where it stated: "TMNP is an iconic tourist attraction and has the potential to create many sustainable business opportunities.
“Many of these business opportunities have disappeared as a result of the poor management of TMNP and we would like to see a concerted effort and policy change from SANParks to reinstate and encourage new sustainable business opportunities.'“
Parkscape founder Nicky Schmidt said the issue was of concern as the park needed to generate revenue wherever it could, and the failure to rebuild the restaurant not only missed an opportunity for SANParks, but also for the restaurant owner.
“There has been a proposal that as a temporary measure, Lister’s Tearoom at the Tokai Arboretum could be used by the Rhodes Memorial restaurant owner while the Rhodes building is repaired. However, work will also be required to make Lister’s Tearoom compliant as it has been allowed to become derelict.
Schmidt said it also meant that parking to the Tokai Arboretum (which has been closed since the 2015 fires) should be reopened – something that Parkscape has been calling for in the past four years.
Table Mountain Watch member Andre Van Schalkwyk said they worried the restaurant would become just another facility not restored by SANParks.
“Another part of our recreation and heritage will be lost to their inept management. As we've seen with Orangekloof as well as Silvermine tented camps, Lister’s Tea Room and the Tokai Arboretum and others,” said Van Schalkwyk.
SANParks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said they were not deploying delayed tactics, as with all heritage buildings, arduous processes and permits were required before any construction could take place.