With ten known muggings on Table Mountain in October alone, Cape Town’s hiking communities are poised for action – This is how to join:
Cape Town, South Africa (01 November 2023) – Safety on one of South Africa’s most distinctive landmarks, Table Mountain, is in peril following a recent spate of muggings. In October, ten muggings are known to have occurred. On Monday, 23 October two suspects targeted a mother, her 11-month-old baby and a friend during a hike near Vredehoek.
The robbers threatened their victims with a knife, forced them onto the ground and made off with a cell phone and jewellery. Such incidents have so alarmed locals that some are now poised to take action, increase civilian patrolling and raise awareness about the current threats.
“They are opportunistic. They are looking for the vulnerable. They are looking for easy targets where they can get away quite easily,” Love Our Trails founder Blake Dyason says of criminals on Table Mountain. He has noticed the recent increase in crime, which he says is typical during the summer: “It’s not uncommon, but it is unacceptable.”
Now, representatives from several city mountain groups are set to meet on Thursday, 2 November at 17:30 at a city primary school hall to tackle what the organiser calls a “drastic” increase in crime on the landmark. Among officials due to attend is City of Cape Town ward councillor Francine Higham, who held a meeting with two fellow councillors and various authorities on Friday, 27 October over muggings, including on Signal Hill and Lion’s Head.
A concerned Capetonian, Clarisse Coetzee Bergsma, was moved to rally civil society after a friend was recently mugged on the slopes. She organised Thursday’s mountain safety initiative meeting. “I’m so sick of what’s going on and not feeling safe,” says Bergsma.
“We can’t leave it up to security companies and SANparks alone. We need to gather safety in numbers, report suspicious behaviour and do something ourselves to support existing networks if we want to continue walking our dogs on the mountain,” she adds.
Bergsma’s concern over mountain safety and the well-being of amblers, cyclists, dog walkers, hikers, nature enthusiasts and runners prompted her to organise Thursday’s meeting at Laerskool Jan van Riebeeck’s school hall on Kloof Street. “It’s time for us to unite and take action for our communities,” she says.
Dyason has been involved in mountain search and rescue, trail maintenance, safety and security for years. Currently, he is working on a project to launch safety huts starting with a Lion’s Head pilot in partnership with a number of different organisations including Friends of Table Mountain and the City of Cape Town. He will participate in the mountain safety initiative. During the meeting, attendees will coordinate mountain patrols. Groups of at least eight volunteers, some with dogs, are set to add to existing security measures.
“It’s almost impossible for rangers to walk around the 750 kilometres of trails we have around Table Mountain,” says Dyason.
While he approves of citizen patrolling he disapproves of citizens taking the law into their own hands. Rather, the emphasis is on visibility and safety in numbers. “What we want is volunteers to walk trails […] and report things that could prevent crime,” he adds.
Andy Davies who chairs the Friends of Table Mountain, which has 8,500 supporters on Facebook, will attend. He notes Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) draws local and overseas visitors but its proximity to the “city and our inherent crime problems” has led to crimes targeting mountain users.
“The public want to help solve this issue,” says Davies.
Free mountain safety app BUZZER 2.0 launched in October 2021. Its creator Keri Cross “most definitely” backs the mountain safety initiative on Thursday.
“We’ve built BUZZER exactly for communication of community members where they are and where they need help, and that’s not only for crime,” she says.
BUZZER is active in TMNP’s borders, geared at improving emergency response and bolstering safety. Cross and her team manage alerts to various control rooms of different private security firms. In some of the recent muggings, continues Cross, victims have called for help using the app.
“We even had a paraglider report a mugging through the BUZZER app. There was then coordination of response […] SAPS and SANParks caught the suspect,” she says. The app works on trails with cell phone signal in the City Bowl, Atlantic Seaboard, Camps Bay and Hout Bay.
Thursday’s mountain safety initiative from 17:30 to 18:30 at Jan van Riebeeck Primary School Hall is a civilian-driven effort to ensure the safety of all mountain users.
Muggings on Table Mountain are rampant and increasing. It’s time for us to unite and take action for our communities! Join us:
Date: Thursday 2 November
Time: 17:30 – 18:30
Venue: Laerskool Jan van Riebeeck, school hall, Kloof Street
Be part of the solution and help patrol the mountain in coordinated, large groups.
This meeting is for everyone — runners, cyclists, hikers, dog walkers and nature enthusiasts — everyone who is passionate about protecting our mountain and enjoying it in a safe environment!