Hikers step up action to reclaim trails from ‘handful of thugs’ after Table Mountain muggings
On a mission to demand safety and security within the Table Mountain National Park amid a spate of mountain attacks, a group of about 50 people held a protest hike along the Lion’s Head trail at dawn on Friday.
‘We’ve decided to roll up our sleeves and to do some work ourselves,” said Andy Davies, describing how they plan to raise awareness and help to ensure safety within the city’s key mountains – Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill.
Davies, the chairperson of the public forum Friends of Table Mountain (FOTM), spoke to Daily Maverick after taking part in a 4.4km hiking march on Friday organised by the newly formed organisation, Friends of Lions Head, to raise awareness and boost safety and security within the ranges of the national park.
“Basically our demand is that SANParks (South African National Parks) provide more resources and work more closely with the City of Cape Town Metro Police and the Western Cape government to increase safety on the mountain.
“We’ve seen an upsurge in crime and we want to highlight this problem. The management authority of the to hear our outcry. We know that SANParks have enough money to provide sufficient resources in the park. We demand an increase in their operating budget to protect the Table Mountain National Park.”
On Friday, 1 December 2023, at 5am, more than 50 Capetonians marched on the Lion’s Head hiking trail in Cape Town calling on the Table Mountain National Park to increase the budget for security to protect hikers, runners and cyclists following a spate of robberies in recent months.
I now started running with a knife… These frequent muggings might push me to get a firearm too.
The protest, led by the revived Friends of Lion’s Head committee, started at the Lion’s Head parking lot and ended at the peak of the trail. The committee’s main objective is to lobby for SANParks to manage the park better and deploy more quality resources to ensure safety along the trail.
It comes in the wake of 80 muggings on Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head recorded this year alone, according to FOTM.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Table Mountain muggings: How do you secure a national park with 850km of trails?
‘Not ready to give up the mountain’
One hiker, Kevin Berry from Gordon’s Bay, told Daily Maverick he is not ready to give up the mountain.
“These criminals have made me not explore the mountain as I used to anymore. It has affected me negatively, honestly. I want to see change, we need to feel and be safe again walking, running and cycling the mountain,” he said.
He added: “I now started running with a knife even though I might not use it, but I am not ready to give up the mountain.
“I am a runner and most of the time I use the mountain to prepare my mental being and fitness to compete. So, with these recent muggings, my social media platforms have been flooded with people telling me not to go anymore. It’s not safe and most of the time I spend it training alone. So, I need to use the mountain to prepare for upcoming events. I am just not ready to give up the mountain.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Table Mountain National Park — escaped genies and the desperately ill cash cow
The attacks in the Table Mountain National Park are not new, as muggers lurk in the undergrowth and on the trails, waiting for their next victim. Crime spikes in the park always result in a public outcry and a long, hard look at how the park is managed.
Regular runner, Andrea Scheepers, told Daily Maverick on Friday that the mountain used to be her playground, but now it’s unsafe. “I think anyone that’s lived in Cape Town realises that this mountain is extremely precious. I think besides it being a magnet, it’s just a playground for all of us. Runners, walkers, hikers, trail runners, road runners spend a lot of time up here,” she said. She added that “all I want is to be able to come up here again and feel safe and not have to text 10 different men to ask them to accompany me”.
Sean McCormack, from Durbanville, said he has lived in Cape Town for more than 35 years and would like his grandkids to cherish the mountain as well.
“I don’t do a lot of mountain climbing per se but I do a lot of running in the mountains. I’m not a traveller, I do road running, and I just enjoy it. You know, I want my children and the generation after them to love it, I want all of us to enjoy it,” he said.
McCormack added that “the saddest thing is, it’s like a minority of people, it’s a handful of thugs, hooligans, whatever you want to call them, that are holding this mountain at their ransom. Cape Town’s got six million people so we need to stand up to it. It’s high time we stand to show them that they won’t win the game.
“It’s a fantastic initiative they got this morning. And, hats off to the guys that got this together. It was a good turnout and I think it’s going to grow from here. Andy mentioned they’re going to take it to Parliament that is where things start. I’m looking forward to supporting it going forward as well and I’m sure a lot of people will and it will pick up momentum.”
Buzzer Community Safety App
Andy Davies told Daily Maverick on Wednesday they had arranged a Buzzer Community Safety App which is free to download for the public.
Users can get help in an emergency by pushing the SOS button and if their community is connected to a professional responder, they will be en route the moment your SOS is received.
Where there isn’t an immediate emergency, they can report information about a situation:
- Suspicious: This could be any suspicious activity from a person or vehicle;
- Fire: You are able to report smoke for fire coming from green area or a home;
- Municipal: Alert responders or community to damaged roads, faulty street lights or burst water pipes;
- Medical: Receive medical help by sending out an alert to your community; and
- Crime: Report any criminal activity.
FOTM recommends the safety tips for mountain users:
- Download the community safety app;
- Always be vigilant of your surroundings;
- If you feel threatened or uncomfortable, press the panic button; and
- Only use the mountain in groups during daylight hours.
The panic button on the app provides a precise GPS location for the nearest security service provider, including SANParks. Otherwise the City of Cape Town emergency line is on 021 480 7700. DM
Samane Jnr Marks accompanied the protesters on the 4.4km return journey on Friday.
For clarity and accuracy, a number of amendments were made to this article following initial publication.