The Table Mountain war: MEC forks out so he can ride in peace
Tourism MEC bolsters Table Mountain crime-fighting purse
His bicycle stands in the foyer of his office and race maps hang on its wall. It’s no surprise, therefore, that avid mountain biker Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for tourism and economic development, is personally involved in a new plan to combat crime on Table Mountain.
Winde confirmed on Thursday he has allocated some of his own department’s budget to bolster a crime-fighting partnership with law enforcement agencies and civil society groups. The hands-on MEC says he tries to cycle around the mountain at least once a week, and on the mountain as often as possible. He says he is alarmed by the recent spike in mountain attacks on hikers inside the world-famous national park.“With my family I also like walking – there are amazing places to go walk on the mountain,” Winde said in response to questions about mountain safety. “This financial year we now have got a budget [to support safety initiatives] and we are busy putting a plan together.”
Winde’s budget windfall coincides with the launch last week of a Table Mountain Task Team to co-ordinate safety efforts. These include training a group of 25 safety “ambassadors” to assist park visitors and monitor violence flashpoint areas.The task team, which includes park officials and hiking group representatives, held its inaugural meeting last week. Co-founder Andre van Schalkwyk said the group aims to ensure once-popular hiking trails do not become no-go zones.
“Our first joint effort is happening over this coming long weekend, in the Silvermine and Echo Valley areas [scenes of recent attacks],” Van Schalkwyk said. “In essence the objective is to create safety in those areas and reduce crime.”He said the task team also hopes to help educate tourists without causing unnecessary panic. “We’ve been talking to a lot of tour companies and professional guides to say let’s work together in drafting a text or message that will not create paranoia and fear – much the same as when you arrive in downtown Frankfurt and they tell you: ‘Don’t go down to the main station after 8pm’.”
Van Schalkwyk welcomed Winde’s involvement in mountain safety and said he hoped to discuss details of safety plan during a mountain hike with other dignitaries.
Winde said he hoped the mountain initiative would emulate the success of another recent tourism partnership, with banks and the police, to protect visitors to the city from ATM fraud. “It was a huge success. Now we want to take what we have learnt from that project and bring it into the new [mountain safety] partnership,” he said.
Mountain muggings have increased in recent years, but a spate of violent attacks in January prompted outrage among locals. At the time, City of Cape Town safety and security head JP Smith confirmed plans to engage South African National Parks about accessing the city’s drone technology programme for crime prevention. He said the park could also benefit from employing auxiliary law enforcers to add to the number of mountain rangers.Winde’s hands-on public service style is also evident in his approach to the ongoing drought. With Cape Town gripped by its worst water crisis, Winde last year announced he would only wear two T-shirts to work (with jeans) per week – to cut down on laundry water. He challenged others to do the same.
READ MORE: Crime briefing on Table Mountain