Crime within Table Mountain National  Park (TMNP) has been on the rise in recent months.  Muggings and even violent physical attacks are being increasingly reported, according to outdoor community group Take Back our Mountains (TBOM).

Andy Davies, chairperson of mountain users’ forum Friends of Table Mountain (FOTM), says they want to see an effective and sustainable solution to address the security issues throughout the year.

FOTM states their mission is to ensure the appropriate management of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) by the assigned management authority in the best interests of ecology, recreational use and eco-tourism in keeping with the Park’s founding principles of an urban national park.

“SANParks [South African National Parks] have kept FOTM informed about the security initiative over the festive season involving a helicopter and 40 Working On Fire (WOF) staff who supplemented the SANParks rangers,” Davies said. “However the helicopter crashed and the WOF staff were only temporary.”

FOTM are now calling on SANParks to provide:

  1. The substantial TMNP income to be used to address crime issues
  2. A detailed needs analysis to be performed considering the various hot spots on TMNP
  3. More Visitor Safety Rangers on the ground
  4. Re-establishment of the canine unit to assist rangers perform their duties at night and in thick bush
  5. A hotline for the public to pro-actively report issues like fires, bark stripping, suspicious activity, people sleeping in caves

Davies added that there is a huge amount of goodwill from the public to make TMNP a safe park. “The public should be able to report issues to a dedicated hotline and therefore prevent crime. Table Mountain Watch offered to provide security teams to SANParks with large corporate funders, but SANParks blocked this initiative,” he added.

“After he was attacked on Devils Peak, David Grier (Chef, Adventurer and Fundraiser) has raised money for 5 security cameras but SANParks have not shown any interest in his efforts. For now the only thing the public can do is walk in large groups and report emergencies to the City of CT emergency number,” he continued.

Taahir Osman, founder of TBOM which is a stakeholder of SANParks, told Cape Town Etc the organisation plans to have a meeting soon to discuss the main issue of safety and security. Osman is also part of the safety regulatory environment task teams formed by the Minister of Forestry and Fisheries.

“The task teams will explore practical solutions to assist the SANParks constructively and in a joint cooperative manner; rather to look at them critically to provide the solutions,” Osman said.

“SANParks and the tasks teams had always been about working closely with various law enforcement agencies, the City, government and community groups and at the same time investigating the viability of technological solutions given the vast terrain and the numerous access points into the park. There is no one solution or one entity alone that can resolve the crime issue,” Osman continued.

He added that government should avail more resources especially with regard to speeding up the process of putting CCTV cameras at all known hot spots and busy trails. “This could play a huge role in combating the crime,” he said. “It is impossible for the SANParks to monitor and consistently have safety measures in place over a mountain range area if 221 square km. Also because safety and security is not the primary mandate of the SANParks.”

In 2019, the Take Back Our Mountains movement together with SANParks initiated a Whatsapp Alert group for the public. Anyone who feels unsafe or sees anything suspicious can post it in the group and the immediate deployment of SANParks rangers to that area can be activated. There are currently 243 participants in the TMNP Security Alert Group, according to Osman. To join the group, contact Osman on 073 624 4287.

Osman urged the public to follow Facebook and Instagram pages of local community organisations such as the Take Back Our Mountain movements that advocate the safe enjoyment of TMNP.

When planning to enjoy TMNP, keep these safety tips in mind:

– Never hike, run or cycle alone – four or more is an ideal size for a party.

– Save the TMNP emergency number on your phone: 086 110 6417

– Avoid going before sunrise or after sunset.

– Keep to the designated routes on well-used paths. Heed signs advising of danger and do not take short cuts or unknown routes.

– Leave valuables behind and keep phones out of sight.

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Picture: Unsplash

Article written by

Anita Froneman