After the fire that broke out on Sunday, April 18, several community and environmental organisations have released statements to establish their stance on the matter.
Andy Davies, Chairperson of Friends of Table Mountain (FOTM) released the following statement.
In the SANParks press release on April 20, SANParks CEO stated that the source of the Devils Peak fire was being investigated and that there are 120 SANParks rangers.
Friends of Table Mountain note an earlier SANParks media release that stated “it was surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire”. FOTM can believe that this is the case based on the number of complaints about vagrant activity in this area and that 60% of fires on TMNP are started by vagrants.
Whilst we need to be sensitive to the social issues facing South Africa, TMNP is a proclaimed national park and a UNESCO world heritage site, and the uncontrolled vagrancy on TMNP is resulting in fires, litter and crime. FOTM and others have been warning of this issue and the related fire danger over an extended period of time and the situation has become worse in recent times. SANParks have neglected their mandate to address this issue.
Furthermore FOTM believes the statement that there are 120 rangers on TMNP is misleading. According to a recent SANParks website on “Safe Hiking in Table Mountain National Park” (Note: since removed) there are only 52 SANParks visitor safety rangers actively patrolling the park. (Visitor Safety Rangers are specifically assigned with law enforcement) However it is understood that these rangers are divided into 4 shifts resulting in only approximately 13 visitor safety rangers on the actual mountain at one time. In addition it is understood that very few visitor safety rangers are working night shift or on weekends due to budget constraints.
The website also stated that 16 of those rangers are trained to work with dogs, however as FOTM has reported before, SANParks have no dogs due to the K9 unit becoming aged and sick. FOTM queries on exactly how many visitor safety rangers are on the mountain go largely unanswered and we would welcome SANParks transparently showing the public their exact resource allocations.
FOTM is represented on Minister Creecy’s Task team for “Safety and the Regulated Environment” and have repeatedly asked for additional security resources to be applied to TMNP. However to date little or nothing has been done, with only promises being made.
While FOTM commends the brave work done by the fire fighters and also the rangers, SANParks is clearly not doing enough to prevent crime and fires on TMNP. We call on SANParks to take a far more pro-active strategy, instead of the current reactive one and we call on the City of Cape Town to hold SANParks accountable for the effective management of the Table Mountain National Park. If SANParks are unable to fulfil their obligations to manage Table Mountain National Park effectively under the current agreement with the City of Cape Town, then FOTM demand that the City of Cape Town takes back the management of TMNP. Finally, Friends of Table Mountain call on Minister Creecy to visit Cape Town and address the public on how the numerous issues plaguing TMNP will be solved.
Picture: Cape Town Etc gallery