Hikers support peers attacked in ravine

Hikers say there have been five attacks in four weeks in Newlands Forest and surrounds.

A group of hikers took to Newlands Forest at the weekend, in support of fellow hikers who were attacked at Newlands Ravine last week.

Four hikers aged between 31 and 58, were tied up and held at knifepoint by five men, who stripped them and robbed them of their possessions on Thursday October 4.

Just last week, Southern Suburbs Tatler reported on concerns raised over the safety of local hiking trails after several mugging incidents had been reported, particularly at Newlands Forest and Rhodes Memorial (“Mountain safety in spotlight,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, October 4).

Taahir Osman, from Take Back Our Mountains, said Newlands Forest and Rhodes Memorial were “hot” with muggings, while car break-ins had been reported in Tafelberg Road.

He said last week’s incident had been the fifth attack in four weeks, but had been “worse” than the others, as the victims had been tied up and stabbed.

Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said three of the four victims had received medical attention at the offices of Table Mountain National Park, while a 58-year-old man had been taken to a nearby hospital.

Police arrested four suspects between the ages 20 and 27. They are still searching for a fifth, believed to have fled on foot with the victims’ cellphones and cash.

“Members recovered belongings of the victims (clothing and takkies) in possession of the four suspects and also found one silver flick knife, car breaking implements and one large self-made Allen key in possession of the suspect. The victims identified their belongings and pointed out the suspects to the police and their belongings were handed back to them,” he said.

News of the latest mugging was shared extensively on Facebook.

Reacting to the incident, Ralf S. Ketzer wrote: “I used to love hiking, was already on the trail at 7am. Instead of being a relaxing activity, hiking is now a major stresser. Even in groups – will one get mugged or stabbed? Will one’s car be vandalised, broken into or stolen?”

Ana Isabel Carrapichano agreed, saying: “We can’t hike freely anymore. Groups or no groups. I live in St James and the recent history here is not good either. What can we do?”

A Japanese tourist had to be rushed to hospital after he was mugged on the contour path above Rhodes Memorial last month.

Rondebosch police spokesman, Warrant Officer Lyndon Sisam, said the tourist had been walking on the contour path between Newlands Forest towards the Block House above Rhodes Memorial when he was accosted by two suspects who threatened him with a gun.

“The complainant did not want to hand over his passport. One of the suspects hit him with a rock in his face and robbed him of his backpack containing his camera, cellphone and his passport. The complainant sustained injuries to his face,” he said.

Parkscape chairwoman Nicky Schmidt said they were concerned about the latest incidents, as people couldn’t enjoy a hike if they were at constant risk of attack.

The non-profit organisation was formed in March 2016 following the rape and murder of Franziska Blochliger in Tokai Park.

Ms Schmidt said a detailed safety management plan was needed.

“Authorities such as SANParks, SAPS, the City of Cape Town, security providers, crime watch groups and user groups need to enter into an agreement (or memorandum of understanding) to work together, across different levels, in making such a plan effective. Rapid and transparent reporting of incidents is critical so that users can be kept aware and alert,” she said.

Ms Schmidt said technology – such as the use of drones – should be used, particularly in identified hot spots.

“More visible policing, including horse and quad bike patrols, particularly in hot spots, is critical. Greater resources than are currently deployed are needed to keep the 221km2, open-access park safe. Ultimately, however, this is a social issue, which needs to be addressed by the City, province and national government in terms of social upliftment and employment. The crime experienced in the park is a spill over from crime experienced in the city,” she said.

Mr Osman said he started Take Back Our Mountain about a year ago, after nine hikers were attacked in Kalk Bay, to create awareness of hikers’ appeals to SANParks for more rangers on the mountains and also to encourage hikers, runners and climbers to do their activities in groups.