The Cape Town branch of the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) says it has been inundated with complaints about rangers in the wake of an incident involving star cyclist Nic Dlamini in Table Mountain National Park.
A video of Dlamini’s arrest was shared widely on social media and showed SA National Parks (SANParks) officials aggressively handling Dlamini and shoving him into the back of a van.
It is alleged that Dlamini entered Table Mountain National Parks’ Silvermine Gate 1 without the necessary permit on Friday.
Dlamini’s arm was broken and he underwent surgery.
MCSA Cape Town chairperson Martin Hutton-Squire said on Tuesday that altercations between members of the public and park rangers, unfortunately, appeared to be far too common.
After asking park users to share information, numerous messages streamed in.
“From the responses, which vary from stories of verbal and physical attacks, to arrests and fines due to various frivolous claims, it is clear that many park users have fallen victim to the poor training and unclear mandate of the rangers,” said Hutton-Squire.
“The rangers should be properly trained and mentored to ensure that they understand how to engage with the public, regardless of the circumstances. Many park users have aired their frustration regarding the response from park management when a complaint is lodged against rangers, and many complain that no evident action seems to be taken, and that the situation is not improving.”
SANParks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said on Tuesday they had taken note of the letter and its contents.
“Due to the nature of the incident and the subsequent legal implications, we will not comment.”
Thakhuli said on Monday that an independent investigator had been appointed to look into what happened and five officials involved in Dlamini’s detention were officially suspended pending the outcome.
He said the matter was now sub judice following Dlamini’s announcement that he appointed legal representation.
International law firm Norton Rose will represent Dlamini in the case.
“With the help from my fantastic support team, my manager and the guys at NTT [pro cycling team], I will be taking legal advice on next steps from Norton Rose Fulbright, and for this reason, I hope you can understand why I cannot give any more detail to anyone at this stage,” Dlamini said previously.
He added that the surgery had gone well, but the surgeon was unable to make a prognosis on when he could ride again.
Hutton-Squire said that the heads of agreement that established Table Mountain National Park in 1998 had recognised it as an “urban park”, which could never be administrated in the same way that existing rural national parks were managed.
“An ‘open access’ urban park requires a particular approach to park management that is very different from what is relevant elsewhere,” he said.
“A resolution to the increasing conflict between the public, the rangers and park management will only be achieved once an ‘independent review body’… has been established to consider the day-to-day management of the park, and once all the park rangers have been appropriately trained, given their very public role.”
The MCSA in Cape Town will engage with park leaders, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato, City officials, Premier Alan Winde and Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy to find solutions.