Cape Town - Extra boots will soon hit the ground in the Table Mountain National Park after the murder of a tourist raised fresh fears about safety in the mountain.
Funded by the Department of Tourism, 120 extra “tourism monitors” will be deployed to SANParks territories in the Cape region.
A Facebook post by monitoring group Table Mountain Watch (TMW) has called for lovers of the outdoors to take responsibility for their safety.
The post, shared more than 1 000 times, lambasted SANParks management, police and provincial government for their failure to collaborate effectively.
“To all local park users, we now need to regroup and to find better ways to keep ourselves safe. If it means hiring our own security organisations to accompany us, then so be it,” the post read.
“Discuss weapons of choice, move in bigger groups and consult on your options, rights and methods. We have no shortage of self defence and self offence experts right here in Cape Town. Donot enter the national park on your own or without substantial protection.”
At World Rangers Day last week, SANParks managing executive Property Mokoena announced the new tourism monitors and said training for rangers would need to prepare them to deal with violent crime instead of just protecting biodiversity.
“Our rangers were originally trained to protect and conserve the biodiversity of the national parks. Most of the serious threats which face our rangers, especially in this area, are criminal activities which are done by people. So, it changes the entire modalities of a ranger today,” Mokoena said.
The decision to deploy more rangers comes in the wake of Ukrainian tourist Ivan Ivanov being stabbed to death while walking at East Fort on Chapman’s Peak last weekend.
The first accused, Sinaye Mposelwa, was caught fleeing the scene with Ivanov’s backpack and appeared in court earlier in the week.
The other two accused appeared in Wynberg Magistrate’s Court yesterday. The magistrate ordered they not be named until they have gone through an identity parade.
The court heard that all three men had made admissions related to the murder and robbery.
One of the accused allegedly phoned a friend to ask for help hiding his bloody clothing.
TMW said the relevant authorities had failed to protect park users.
“We are now firmly of the belief that we are on our own when it comes to security solutions. We really tried last year as an association of many park user groups to offer our ideas, possible solutions, time, assistance and even funding - but to little or no avail,” its post read.
SANParks spokesperson Lauren Clayton reminded park users that it was against the law to bring a weapon into the parks.
“We would not encourage users of the park to carry weapons as it poses a greater threat to you as an individual, group or visitors,” Clayton said.
“It is illegal to carry weapons within the national park.”
She said the park would be working with police to tackle the crime problem.
“Table Mountain National Park will conduct joint crime prevention operations with the South African Police Service to curb crime within Table Mountain.
“TMNP is primarily an open-access system with hundreds of places where entry/exit is possible and a whole mountain range to hide away in, therefore the overspill of urban crime is a phenomenon common to all urban national parks.”
The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said the city was working with the provincial administration to provide extra enforcement staff to patrol the mountain.
The office of Western Cape Premier Alan Winde confirmed that 62 additional tourism safety monitors had already been trained and dispatched into the park.
“In addition to this tourism safety has been included in the prioritised crime committee for the first time, which is a very important step,” the statement read.
“This will ensure that data is collected and a working group will be formed to deal with tourism safety and Saps and other law enforcement agencies will treat this as a priority.”
Clayton said park users should be wary of suspicious people posing as hikers.
A memorial service conducted by an Orthodox priest will be held for murder victim Ivanov at the East Fort tomorrow.