Mike loves his job – and the mountain

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company operations executive Mike Wiliams.

For Mike Williams, operations executive at the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC), work is something of a pleasure.

Not only does he get to spend his days ensconced in the splendour of Table Mountain but he also gets to work with people who have become his family.

Mr Williams has been part of the TMACC family for the past three decades.

When Mr Williams initially took over technical operations of TMACC 30 years ago, the infrastructure was reliable but archaic.

Years of sanctions during the apartheid era meant that he and his team were accustomed to making do with the bare minimum of resources.

This situation demanded a thrifty ingenuity, with rigorous checks and maintenance done on all parts since new equipment was difficult to come by.

A new democracy in 1994 saw the dawn of new hope for the Cape’s most iconic landmark, and the beginnings of a major upgrade to the cableway.

Under his stewardship, this process integrated new environmental management standards to nurture and protect the mountain’s precious ecosystem.

During major upgrades in 1997, the staff lived on the mountain for two-week stints, during which the camaraderie and fellowship were essential. He said the connections forged there, between colleagues and with the mountain itself have blossomed into lifelong bonds of friendship.

“The sense of Ubuntu, of helping each other through team-work and old-fashioned family values within our organisation has humbled me over the years. It gives me a deep sense of gratitude for the work we do and the space we inhabit,” he said.

Mr Williams said the nature of his work has shifted over the years and broadened in scope to encompass several complex challenges. One of which is that the cable system runs on a dual power source, which dynamically switches over to hydraulics in the absence of electricity.

“When I started 30 years ago, it was all about looking after the cableway. Now it’s all about looking after the health and safety of the mountain, its ecosystems and habitats. The human tourists who ride the cablecars are but one in a multitude of species,” he joked.

He has now taken a challenge put together measures required to manage the operations of a world-famous ecotourism attraction against the preservation of the mountain and its environs.

Among these, is to ensure that the mountain’s fragile water system is undisturbed and preserved in its natural state.

“No wastewater is allowed to be left in this fragile habitat. So, every drop used must be carried up and down in huge 3 000-litre tanks at the base of each cable car. These tanks also function as stabilising ballasts against heavy winds.”

While Mr Williams’ duties as custodian of Cape Town’s most precious wonder have expanded significantly with the rise in tourism numbers in last two decades, he still feels fortunate to be working in a place he loves, among colleagues who are like family and bringing joy to the hearts of countless visitors.