Fear on the mountain

If the amount of people who attended the meeting is any indication of the major crime problem in the mountains, then it most certainly is.

Hiking or trail running on the numerous pathways of Table Mountain Park is no longer considered safe by many residents.

More than 250 people attended a meeting last Thursday at the Jan Van Riebeeck primary school hall to discuss their issues with the City of Cape Town, represented by ward councillor Francine Higham, as well as representatives from SANParks, SAPS, and the Law Enforcement.

Clarisse Coetzee, 41, of Durbanville, says a friend was robbed on a Devil’s Peak route, prompting her to organise a meeting at which Blake Dyason, the founder of Love Our Trails, and Andy Davies, the chairperson of Friends of Table Mountain, discussed the situation.

“My friend actually witnessed two guys robbing another lady and they then robbed her and then another guy who was on the trail as well. I love hiking and running here but it does not feel safe anymore and we have to do something about it,” said Ms Coetzee.

It’s recommended to hike in groups from a safety aspect.

Mr Davies says there are no official figures on muggings, but he reckons there were around 30 in October.

“Our primary concern is safety and security of citizens and tourists visiting TMNP and we have been engaging with SANParks executive management and even Minister Barbara Creecy to improve safety on TMNP. Our primary goal is for a significant increase in visible policing through more rangers on TMNP. SANParks makes a handsome profit out of TMNP so there is no excuse why our demands for better security cannot be met. Pre-Covid TMNP income was R370 million while they only spent R99 million on operating expenses,” said Mr Davies, 52, from Milnerton.

He urged hikers to hike in groups and to report any crime or suspicious activity via the BUZZER community safety app.

“The public, including myself, are fearful of entering TMNP. This is a travesty as we are blessed to have this beautiful park in the middle of our city and we should be able to enjoy it peacefully and not fear for our lives,” he said.

Mr Dyason concurs that BUZZER should be used, and that the various safety organisations should collaborate on a centralised response strategy to record all reports and allocate the appropriate resources.

“The goal was to tell the trail uses about all the safety initiatives that exist and what they are doing. And then it was to call on the trail uses to be the eyes and ears for the safety groups, to report suspicious and illegal activities. We also told them how to report something and that a report needs to have date, time, location with landmarks, direction of travel, description that is more than just colour of person and colour of shirt but must include hair, facial hair, shoes if there is a brand or logo, tattoos and scars,” he said.

Taahir Osman, a founder of Take Back Our Mountains, says they know of over 60 cases of muggings.

“Crime on Table Mountain is an ongoing concern, with a history of frequent muggings during certain periods. In recent years, specifically in 2018 and this year, there have been over 60 reported cases of muggings, and we haven’t even entered the festive season yet,” Mr Osman said.

He said TBOM has encountered a number of difficulties, particularly with operational managers from Table Mountain National Parks who have been unwilling to collaborate with the organisation and will no longer be conducting visitor safety patrols.

“Despite these obstacles, TBOM remains committed to its mission. They will continue to use their Facebook and Instagram pages to inform local and international users about crime incidents in the area. Additionally, TBOM will persist in organising litter clean-ups and facilitating day tours for youth to Table Mountain,” he said.

At the time of going to print there was no response from the City, SANParks or law enforcement agencies.