By Anees Teladia
The murder of a Ukrainian tourist this past weekend has once again highlighted the inadequate safety mechanisms and crime prevention strategies on mountain trails and hiking paths in the Western Cape. Table Mountain, one of the most iconic landmarks of South Africa, is riddled with crime and is often the site of violence and murder. While concerns around tourist safety are important, locals have been complaining about the lack of safety and the excessive criminal activity on popular mountain trails for years.
However, South African National Parks (SANParks) spokesperson, Reynold Thakhuli said crime is not the sole responsibility of authorities and that SANParks has taken measures to combat crime on mountain trails under their jurisdiction.
“The challenge with Table Mountain is that it is an urban park which spills over into urban areas. So, often you will find that criminal activities in the urban areas spill over into the park. Hence, we are calling on citizens and residents of the areas which spill over into the park, to assist us in the fight against crime,” he said.
“There are daily patrols but some areas in the [Table Mountain] park don’t have cellphone signal to report incidents as they happen. Crime is not only the responsibility of authorities – it is the responsibility of all citizens.”
In a statement on Monday, a safety group called Table Mountain Watch expressed frustration with the scourge of crime on mountain trails, saying hikers have been left “on their own” by SANParks.
“Recent attacks, going back to late 2017, displayed the same tendencies of anger, cruelty, savagery, barbarity, hate and horror. As park users, after much discussion and communication today, we are now firmly of the belief that we are on our own when it comes to security solutions,” the group stated.
“Table Mountain National Park is a crime hot-spot. You enter here fully at your own risk. If it means hiring our own security organisations to accompany us, then so be it. Discuss weapons of choice, move in bigger groups and consult on your options, rights and methods.”
Amid sharp criticism of the safety measures and crime prevention strategies adopted by SANParks, Thakhuli urged the group to “come back to the table”.
“I’d like to call on Table Mountain Watch to come back to the table. It’s all well and good to call on us to work on issues of crime, but a year ago Table Mountain Watch stopped attending the meetings we have with law enforcement agencies. Standing on the outside, bickering and calling on us will not help,” said Thakhuli.
“We are working with a number of stakeholders…this incident [the murder of the Ukrainian tourist] is highly regrettable.”
SANParks has conveyed its condolences to the family and friends of the murdered Ukrainian tourist, Ivan Ivanov, who was attacked while hiking on a scenic trail in the Hout Bay area this past Saturday.
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