Table Mountain Watch demands answers from SANParks over safety

Andre van Schalkwyk of Table Mountain Watch and a collective of concerned citizens said the criminal incidents are ongoing and that it was just a matter of time before there is another ICU case or death in the park.
Image: Table Mountain Watch

Safety initiative Table Mountain Watch is demanding answers from SANParks over safety risks after several attacks in Table Mountain National Park in the past week.

The group said they had no idea where SANParks was with their planning of the R2bn mission area joint operations centre (MAJOC) which would be launched at a yet to be disclosed future date.

According to Table Mountain Watch, the operation, deemed to mimic the MAJOCs that fight rhino-poaching in Kruger, was intended to address all aspects of safety and security in the park.

“If SANParks don’t get this together and tell us what and by when they are getting it together, then as users and concerned citizens, we will have no choice but to seek relief through the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, just as the NPO Parkscape did in 2016 to 2018,” said Andre van Schalkwyk of Table Mountain Watch.

Van Schalkwyk said criminal incidents were ongoing in the area. He said three trail runners were attacked, one sustaining mild injuries, in the mountains above Soetwater. Van Schalkwyk said another incident was an attempted mugging near the Bos 400 wreck.

He said it was just a matter of time before they have another ICU case or death in the park.

“For years we have put forward suggestions and proposals for the joint management of safety in the park.  For as many years we were met with reluctance and outright rejection of solutions,” he said.

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

The watch believes that the integrated neighbourhood watch, private security, SAPS, ranger and city PECC model, which has already been presented to TMNP management (2018/2019), is a far more effective solution.

Van Schalkwyk said SANParks should rather be taking the R2bn they hope to raise and invest it in real-time internet of things (IoT) technology, which includes drones, CCTV and sensor surveillance. The watch said using technology and existing resources in this way would work equally well for crime-related activities as it would for fire and even landslide prevention.

“It can even monitor dam wall movement at places like Silvermine where we have seen cracks and leakage,” Van Schalkwyk.

Van Schalkwyk said  SANParks needed to be held to account.

“Just sticking a helicopter in the air and not talking to us is not going to cut it,” he said.

In response, SANParks said the safety and security of visitors and users remained a top priority. “We take this responsibility as the organisation very seriously,” said SANParks spokesperson Reynold  Thakhuli.

He said SANParks works hand in hand with other law-enforcement partners such SAPS, Cape Town metro police and the law-enforcement unit to improve safety and security at the park and the urban interface.

SANParks also shares safety information with security companies, neighbourhood watch groups as well as community policing forums considering the urban context within which Table Mountain National Park occurs.

Thakhuli said SANParks was aware of the May 2 incident.

“The incident was reported to the SAPS and we have assisted with the investigation leading to the arrest of one suspect,” he said.

Thakhuli said SANParks also regularly participates in a series of safety initiatives such as patrols with interested parties.

“Security information from the aerial cableway CCTV surveillance cameras is also shared widely with various stakeholders. The mission area joint operations centre is a long-term 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. This phase comes with a complete integration to the city of Cape Town emergency control centre. The SANParks call centre can be reached on 0861 106 417 and is operational 24/7,” he said.

BY Shonisani Tshikalange

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