TMNP finances and security questioned

This iconic view is becoming a hotspot for crime.

Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs, confirmed that Table National Mountain Park generated R298 849 511 in revenue for the fiscal year 2022/23.

Ms Creecy further verified that the TMNP expenditure is R97 763 001.

The Friends of Table Mountain (FOTM) believes TMNP lacks the resources it needs to address the myriad issues it faces, such as criminality, infrastructure decline, and invasive alien plants.

“It is common knowledge that TMNP is a highly profitable park for SANParks and it has been frustrating to see TMNP income disappear from a place that clearly needs more resources,” said Andy Davies, FOTM chairperson.

“”FOTM’s requests for the latest income and expenditure reports from SANParks have been ignored. However, through parliamentary channels we have been informed that for the 2022/23 financial year, TMNP made a remarkably good income of R298m – but that it only spent R97m on TMNP (a significant profit margin of 207%). FOTM also takes note that TMNP’s operating budget/expenditure decreased by 11.5% in real terms compared to 2018/19,” he said.

Mr Davies says they understand that profits need to be shared among other parks that see a fraction of TMNP’s tourism, but there is now an urgent need to support TMNP regarding the current crime wave.

“Bearing in mind the surge in crime and its very negative impact on Cape Town tourism, FOTM finds it unacceptable that SANParks head office is not prepared to commit more funding to TMNP,” he said.

JP Smith, member of the mayoral committee on safety and security, questions the usage of the funds too.

“After a surge of crime within the TMNP area, the City of Cape Town is increasing its support to both SANParks and SAPS in their crime fighting efforts. The recent parliamentary reply from national government demonstrates a lack of commitment to manage the national park effectively, similar to the problems being seen at other tourist attractions such as the Castle of Good Hope,” said Mr Smith.

“As a City we have done much to stimulate our local economy in the wake of the pandemic and a large focus of this was for our tourism sector. TMNP has an annual income of around R300 million, with an expenditure of R97 million. This begs the question, if SANParks is vastly under resourced with too few rangers, where is all this generated income going? Presumably it goes towards subsidising other parks around the country,” he asks.

Ms Creecy said TMNP employs 70 rangers who work 45 hours a week, excluding emergencies and the holiday season.

Mr Smith believes that if the national government provided even half of the R200 million surplus created each year to pay extra resources, the City could fund an additional 400 law enforcement officers throughout the TMNP.

“If some of this budget funded additional technology including cameras, drones and aerial support and deployed according to a GPS-enabled, evidence-led despatching system, we could achieve so much more and ensure that local, domestic and international visitor safety was bringing more tourists and more jobs to our city. Not only can it be done, it should be done,” he said.

Clarisse Coetzee, 41, of Durbanville, says that she won’ be visiting TMNP hiking trails until the safety off locals and international visitors is guaranteed.

“It’s frustrating to know that there are funds and that it’ not being used to improve the security. I want to say let’s take those funds and put more security on the mountain,” said Ms Coetzee who arranged a meeting last month concerning safety on the mountains (Fear on the mountain, November 9, 2023).

Blake Dyason, founded Love Our Trails in 2015 with the aim of keeping the mountain clean, questioned the ability of the rangers.

“How many rangers are there, why are they not armed and what strategy are they using to make the mountain safe? Is there a clear understanding of how to take on crime on the mountains? And if SANParks can’t get visitor safety right then why don’t they partner up with volunteer organisations that can help with solutions for visitor safety. We have reached out to SANParks and they have not responded to us,” said Mr Dyason.

A SANParks statement says they work with local neighbourhood watches, community safety groups and security companies to target criminal activities.

“TMNP has the Sea-Air-Mountain (SEAM) Team which conducts special operations targeted at both crime against visitors as well as environmental crime (abalone poaching and bark stripping). Operations are conducted on the basis of information fed through to and analysed in the SEAM Operations Room. Rangers are deployed on foot, bicycle, vessel and vehicle patrols,” the statement says.

According to the statement, ranger vacancies are being given priority consideration in order to fill these posts as soon as possible.