Cape Town - As part of its proposed plan to reduce crime, the City of Cape Town has suggested that access to Signal Hill and Tafelberg roads be controlled between 10pm and 5am.
Entrance to the roads would be barred by a pair of steel wing gates which would be manned and monitored by SANParks officials.
The rape and hijacking of a Norwegian exchange student in the Signal Hill parking lot earlier this year put the area under the spotlight.
Ward councillor Dave Bryant said controlled access would be the ideal answer to the crime problems on Signal Hill.
“It’s not a road closure, so people can still use the mountain at night. It’s a way to monitor who is going in and out, which adds another level of security for visitors.”
Bryant said the incident involving the exchange student was a standout case. Most crimes on the mountain were thefts and hijackings.
Placing officials at the gates who would take down the registration details of visitors before they could enter or exit the road would make it difficult to carry out hijackings, Bryant said.
“We found that most of the incidents involve cars,” he said.
“Hijackers would be discouraged by the gates because it would make it difficult to escape.”
In the past, Signal Hill Road has been closed to the public at night as a safety measure.
But the road has been re-opened as it has been deemed unfair to bar visitors from using it.
The plan to control access to the mountains was opened up for public participation on Tuesday morning. Bryant has urged people to get involved.
SANParks spokeswoman Merle Collins said manning the gates would not require extra staff as there was an established visitor safety team working at night.
“We support any effort to improve the safety of our visitors,” she added.
But Table Mountain Watch Group founder Andre van Schalkwyk has his doubts. He has been leading the campaign for mountain safety and has been one of the most vocal critics of the city’s efforts to clamp down on crime on Signal Hill.
“I feel what they are doing is minimalistic. It’s a good start, and I’ll take what I can get, but there's so much more that could be done.”
Van Schalkwyk suggested that Signal Hill needed to be developed into a world-class destination with stringent security, ultimately transforming it into a safe and thriving tourism hub.
“As it stands it’s not living up to its potential,” he said.
Cape Town Tourism chief executive Enver Duminy was keen to see the plan rolled out before the busy summer.
“The issues around the security of Table Mountain are complex,” Duminy said.
“I think this initiative is a proactive response to managing safety where and when we are able to do so without hampering the lives of our citizens.”
Duminy warned that the plan was not a cure-all, but rather a way to reduce the safety risk to those who were using the roads at night.