Group laments mountain ‘neglect’

Friends of Table Mountain group is demanding action from SANParks over what they call the neglect of Table Mountain National Park.

The newly formed Friends of Table Mountain (FOTM) group is demanding action from SANParks over what they call the neglect of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

The group, which has more than 1 000 members was formed to ensure the park was properly managed. FOTM chairman Andy Davies, said the group was concerned that among others, there was a significant breakdown in trust between SANParks and the public.

He said SANParks is making money out of TMNP and not reinvesting it into the park.

He said they were concerned about ongoing safety issues on Table Mountain, badly degraded trails and infrastructure and poor promotion of tourism.

“Activity permits are being chaFrged and the proceeds do not appear to be reinvested into that specific activity,” he said.

The group wrote to the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy at the end of August calling for her to intervene.

Three weeks later the CEO of SANParks, Fundisile Mketeni met the group and other task team members where their concerns were shared.

Mr Davies said although the meeting was positive they remain concerned about the numerous issues plaguing the park.

In the meeting, they said Mr Mketeni told them that SANParks is short of money and doesn’t have the budget to spend any more money on TMNP.

On the matter of badly degraded trails and infrastructure, he said they are committed to spending R500 000 on a trail rehabilitation project.

On poor promotion of tourism and related event closures, he said there was no real commitment from SANParks to develop tourism, but rather stated conservation is their main priority.

SANParks agreed to consider re-opening a sporting event as a test case working together with the public.

Touching on the significant breakdown in trust between SANParks and the public, they were told that SANParks would be contracting in a public relations company to try and improve the SANParks image and relationship with the public.

“FOTM is concerned this will not address the root cause of the problems and will just lead to SANParks spin doctoring the issues,” said Mr Davies.

Following this meeting, the group confirmed that some follow-up meetings have been had with the TMNP manager but they note a growing delay in responses to issues raised.

“Only the R500 000 trail rehabilitation has been agreed with the task team,” they said.

FOTM said ideally TMNP should be managed by a local board of stakeholders including the public, City of Cape Town and provincial government. “SANParks need to be more open and transparent with all stakeholders and see the public as customers and potential partners and not as a nuisance. They need to remember that they are the custodians, not the owners of our park,” said Mr Davies.

In March this year, Minister Creecy held an open dialogue with TMNP users where she addressed some of the issues they were facing. “There’s been a breakdown in the relationship with users and the Table Mountain Park, therefore I want to set up task teams that will deal with a range of short term issues,” she said.

SANParks communications officer in the Cape Region, Lauren Clayton, confirmed that Mr Mketeni met with task team members, on September 18, to discuss the management and functionality of these task teams.

She said members of the FOTB form part of the task teams structure, created by the Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry (DEFF) and Fisheries, in March this year.

She said, as SANParks, they remain committed to dealing with the issues raised within these structures and they invite these members back to the table to discuss and conclude this process further.

“It is imperative to note that the CEO of national parks and Table Mountain National Park park management, continues to engage and meet with these structures until a permanent structure is formalised. It is for this reason that we believe any issue of common interest or concern should be first dealt within this structure,” she said.