Table Mountain is still a hotspot for muggings and has seen several incidents by criminals on tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Table Mountain is still a hotspot for muggings and has seen several incidents by criminals on tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

SANParks pressed over Table Mountain safety after recent attacks

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published May 12, 2021

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Cape Town - Lobby groups have demanded answers from SANParks over safety risks following more attacks on users of Table Mountain National Park.

The recent incidents occurred on the mountains above Soetwater. Three trail runners were attacked and one sustained mild injuries. The other incident was an attempted mugging near the Bos 400 Wreck. The incidents occurred in the past two weeks.

Andre van Schalkwyk of Table Mountain Watch said incidents were ongoing, and it was a only matter of time before there was another ICU case or death in the park.

He said for years suggestions and proposals for the joint management of safety in the park have been put forward, but these were met with reluctance and rejection.

“Now we’re told about this R2 billion Mission Area Joint Operations Centre (MAJOC), which they would be launching at some yet-to-be-disclosed future date, but there are no clear set of objectives or time lines. There’s a vague reference to two years of development, which we know is rubbish, given Otch Otto was only brought in towards the end of 2020 on an initial contract due to have ended in March this year.”

Van Schalkwyk said the MAJOC sounded like yet another mega ANC project, which risked being subjected to the usual mismanagement and corruption.

Parkscape founder Nicky Smidth said crime has been an issue across the park since the early 2000s and continued to go unresolved.

Smidth said in December Parkscape put forward a proposal to SANParks for a local safety plan, with a request for a meeting with management to discuss it further and link into the proposed MAJOC. She said despite follow-ups, they have had no response.

“SANParks expect the public to work with them, but we come to the table with practical and sound solutions, but are ignored - we’ve seen this with the Ministerial Task Team process. It’s an approach which is simply counter-productive.

“While we appreciate the realities of a national park in an urban environment and the inherent and associated risks, it does mean that the management of the park must take cognisance of that reality and effect a different management approach,” she said.

Friends of Table Mountain chairperson Andy Davies said the continuous reports of muggings, bark stripping and vagrancy were clear indications that SANParks was not adhering to their mandate to prevent and control crime.

“Friends of Table Mountain had high hopes that Minister Creecy’s Task Team for Safety and the Regulated Environment would address the issue of crime in the park, but this has been a fruitless exercise with no tangible results,” he said.

Davies said in order to ensure the safety of tourists and the public in the park, a proper crime needed analysis must be carried out, with the requisite allocation of money, rangers and technology to solve the problem, within a sustainable, ongoing system of governance.

He said they remained unhappy that the City does not hold SANParks accountable for their poor management of park.

SANParks said safety on the mountain remained a priority and it worked hand in hand with law enforcement agencies.

“SANParks also shares safety information with security companies, neighbourhood watch groups as well as community policing forums considering the urban context of Table Mountain National Park. The Mission Area Joint Operations Centre is a longterm project and will be introduced in phases as resources permit. The first phase is already operational, from where rangers are being deployed and incidents are reported.”

SANParks said it was aware of one incident and had assisted with the investigation leading to an arrest of one suspect.

Cape Argus

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