Cooperation improving safety on Table Mountain

Joint statement by Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety

Brigadier Norman Modishana, Acting Deputy Provincial Commissioner, South African Police Service (SAPS)

Paddy Gordon, Table Mountain National Park Manager (SANParks)

Alderman JP Smith, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member: Safety and Security

Marc Truss, Chairperson Table Mountain Safety Forum (TMSF):

The regenerated Table Mountain Safety Forum has seen safety concerns on Table Mountain National Park addressed in a cooperative nature by all authorities responsible for safety service delivery in the park, as well as by a large subsection of interest and user groups operating daily on Table Mountain.

This approach has already resulted in increased visible policing on the Mountain as a whole, as well as faster and more coordinated responses to incidents on the mountain.

Most recently, the working of the Table Mountain Safety Forum helped to secure the arrest of suspects responsible for the mugging of two University of Cape Town students in November.

Background to the Table Mountain Safety Forum

The Table Mountain Safety Forum (TMSF) was initially formulated in 2011 in response to an increase in crimes reported on the Table Mountain National Park.  The Forum which was established to increase safety on the Table Mountain chain through a focused and coordinated approach by all role players involved, met regularly, saw successes and continued interacting in good faith throughout the last couple of years.

Since the beginning of 2015, safety incidents around Table Mountain renewed public interest on the authorities’ attempts to curb and prevent incidents of crime.

These incidents saw the Department of Community Safety revisit the role players involved in the TMSF with the aim of broadening inclusion on the forum. The renewed partnership and targeted interventions towards prevention of crime needs continuous and innovative responses by all involved.

The re-launched Table Mountain Safety Forum (TMSF) met for the first time on 4 August 2015 and has continued to meet on a monthly basis to improve the safety of all mountain users.

The TMSF comprises senior representatives from the South African National Parks (SANParks), the South African Police Services (SAPS), the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town and its law enforcement affiliates, the City Improvement Districts, Cape Town Tourism bodies, as well as various user groups and interest groups such as the Pedal Power Association, the Hikers Network and Table Mountain Watch.

TMSF Cooperative Operational Success

The working of the TMSF has seen all agencies involved recommit efforts cooperatively to help ensure timely and adequate responses to any safety related incidents occurring on the mountain.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is in place between all the relevant law enforcement agencies with a Joint Operational Control centre instituted for efficient detection, response and monitoring of safety related incidents stretching the entire Table Mountain National Park.

The cooperative approach has seen all 14 SAPS station commanders bordering the Table Mountain National Park, SANParks Rangers, Metro Police, City Law Enforcement and partnering safety organisations remain in constant communication to report and address risks to safety on the mountain.

The City of Cape Town’s emergency number 107 (from a landline) and 021 480 7700 (from a mobile) has been agreed to be the preferred communicated emergency number to dial as it is a direct link to the Joint Operations Centre (JOC). As a result of interaction at the forum, SANParks officials have been deployed to the JOC in order to assist with location confirmation in order to dispatch the appropriate emergency response units.

Important to note is that SANParks still has a 24 hour patrol operating on the Table Mountain National Park with more than 150 rangers patrolling during the day, as well as a reduced night patrol unit, supported in their duties by dedicated service dogs.

The SAPS, Metro Police and City Law Enforcement have also increased their patrols on the Mountain, on foot, on horse-back and on all-terrain vehicles.

The Department of Community Safety has deployed Chrysalis Graduates to the SANParks to act as a safety force multiplier assisting the SANParks Rangers in their daily safety related tasks. The Department is looking forward to formalising this arrangement through the necessary Memorandum of Understanding which will enable an expansion of the safety services currently being offered.

Other operational successes include the consideration of innovative and technology enhanced approaches to assist with safety on the mountain such as the possible development or use of a Table Mountain Safety App or even the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for surveillance, tracking and identification of suspects if possible.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility

The TMSF is heavily dependent on the time, expertise and inputs of all the interest groups and user groups currently serving on the forum to remain in touch and responsive to the needs of communities frequenting the mountain.

These groups not only display a passion for the beauty and preservation of this World Wonder on our doorstep but also bring innovative ideas to the table and identify areas of improvement for all to consider.

Though we, as the Table Mountain Safety Forum, know that despite our best efforts to prevent incidents on the Mountain, incidents still occur and that is why we need everyone to take responsibility for their own immediate safety and the safety of those around them.

We urge you as individuals to support the user groups and law enforcement entities in their efforts to establish and maintain a safe environment on the Mountain. We urge any user or interest group to contact the TMSF to find out how we can all become mountain safety ambassadors.

We urge the public to report any incident on the Mountain to the authorities in order for the appropriate response to be actioned – call 021 480 7700 (from a cell phone) or 107 (from a landline).

Every incident prevented, emergency responded to and criminal activity successfully foiled through cooperative deployment and public support is a success for the TMSF and for the greater Cape Town community.

Through working better together as the public service, private entities, and the public at large, we are confident that we can stand united in ridding the Table Mountain National Park of anyone who thinks they will be able to get away with unlawful activity. As a community of mountain users our eyes are on you and through the dedicated work of the law enforcement agencies, you will be caught.