There is no doubt that we are living in difficult times right now. However, we, as the Mountain Club of South Africa, are attempting to do what is possible under the circumstances.
We have held the National AGM and the Annual NatComm Meeting via Zoom and both went off very well. FYI, the make-up of the new National Executive Committee is:
- President – Greg Moseley
- Deputy President – Carl Dreyer
- Secretary – Jenny Paterson
- Treasurer – Lester Coelen
- Additional Members – J B van Eeden and Francois Searle
At the meeting we also discussed the Club’s reaction to the Covid-19 crisis and the lock-down put in place under the government’s disaster management scheme. We were already moving on our reaction to those regulations and Greg Moseley wrote about these in the recent National Newsletter. It perhaps bears quoting here – remembering that Level 4 lock-down was in place at the time:
“While it is absolutely appreciated that not being able to go to the mountains appears to be punitive, it is emphasised that following the government regulations is essential if South Africa is to come out of the other side of this crisis.”
It is, as I am sure you can imagine, a somewhat delicate issue and we are being careful to tread lightly in our response. There are currently two firm initiatives: One, involving the search and rescue people who, together with the air transport authorities are doing their best to ensure that they remain current such that in the event of accidents in mountain areas, they can be comfortable in their role as rescuers.
The other part of our primary Covid-19 response was initiated by the Magaliesberg Section and morphed into a response by National. It became apparent that some of the MCSA properties absolutely need to be maintained (fire-breaks and the like), and we thus made submission to national government for this work to be designated as “essential”.
All of this – together with our well-known (to government) outreach activities, will hopefully give us the exposure that will allow us to make an application to government on behalf of all mountain users for access to the hills once more – when the time is right!
Well, in our judgement, the time is indeed right. And we have two further initiatives to report.
As a result of a press release by SANParks, the President wrote to SANParks expressing support for their desire to be able to open the parks for visitors. We received an immediate reply stating their gratitude for our support but saying that they are of course bound by government policy.
Additionally, we have written to various ministers/government bodies stating our belief that while:
“….. we are fully supportive of the South African government’s measures to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus and believe that we can now look forward to a gradual and safe return to normality. There are various areas of the country where the people of South Africa are accustomed to hike and climb and generally enjoy the physical and spiritual exercise that these natural areas provide. We would encourage you to consider opening these areas as soon as is practicable, in line with the best scientific advice that we know that you are getting.”
“It is quite feasible, and in fact is generally the case, to undertake these activities in a safe and socially distant manner, thus creating the opportunity for many people from all walks of life to re-invigorate themselves after this difficult time. While not wishing to “second guess” the governmental programme for the re-opening of the economy, we urge you to consider the health and well-being of the people of South Africa that would be enhanced by an opening up of the natural areas that we all love so much. Lessons have been learned and people are going to take care, and behave responsibly.”
In our approach, we are in good agreement with the approach taken by the UIAA in its world-wide capacity as the voice of mountaineering and climbing.
By behaving and acting responsibly we can come out of this crisis all the stronger.
The hills remain…