Malls remain on high alert

A security vehicle doing patrols at Access Park, Kenilworth.

Shopping centres in Cape Town remain on high alert, following the violence and looting that have swept KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Access Park in Kenilworth, which closed as precaution on Tuesday July 13, says it has stepped up security to protect stores and customers in increasingly uncertain times.

The business park has brought in extra security personnel, marked and unmarked vehicles patrol the premises and armed guards are stationed at the entrance, according to head of security Bilal Sheik.

“We also have a security presence that is monitoring the perimeter fence around the mall,” he said.

Mr Sheik said he was in regular contact with Claremont police for security updates.

Access Park centre manager Desiree White said Access Park had continued to trade reasonably well during Covid-19. “Sadly, the situation of crime that we now face will most certainly make customers nervous to go out and shop. I am sure this goes for all centres and shopping places at the moment.”

Cavendish Square closed on Thursday July 15 morning because of the volatile situation in the country, according to a statement from the mall, but it was open again by noon.

The mall did not respond to questions by time of publication.

Claremont police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Marnus Fourie said they were on high alert for any possible looting threats to malls.

“Our members on the ground are patrolling at the malls and giving hourly situation reports,” he said.

He urged the public not to spread rumours and false information. “Because of fake news, some of the malls are closed today,” he said.

Abdul Kerbelker, the executive manager of the Claremont Improvement District, said his security team was on high alert and had extra resources on standby should they be needed. “We have direct contact with police, who also have public order policing on standby,” he said.

Har-Lyn Neighbourhood Watch vice-chairman James Cook said that while there had been no civil unrest in the area, patrollers remained alert to possible threats.

Social media was awash with misinformation, he warned, urging residents to verify the validity of messages before simply passing them on.

Lorraine Snyman, the spokeswoman for Riverside Mall in Rondebosch, said they were worked closely with the authorities to head off any threats posed by opportunistic looting and ongoing taxi violence.

“We are currently trading as normal, and precautionary safety measures have been put in place,” she said. “The safety and security of our customers, tenants and employees remain our highest priority.”

Rondebosch police spokesman Warrant Officer Lyndon Sisam said they were in contact with mall security managers and had advised them to beef up security. “They must be on the lookout for any large groups of people being dropped by buses, trucks or taxis near the malls and must report it to the police,” he said.

Surveillance cameras in the precinct were being used to monitor any possible threat, he said. “We have reaction plans in place that will be put into operation in the event of looting in our precinct.”

Meanwhile, Central Woodstock Neighbourhood Watch members are patrolling near Victoria and Albert roads to create more visibility, according to the watch’s Shamiel Abbas.

“We saw that people noticed our reflective bibs,” he said. “We were in constant contact with Woodstock police, and the shops in the area felt positive about the presence of more people monitoring the areas.”

According to Premier Alan Winde, there have, so far, been no cases of looting in the province, although the police and the Provincial Disaster Risk Management Centre are aware of multiple messages that did the rounds last week warning of threats to various malls in Cape Town and elsewhere in the province.

“In the case of the WhatsApp circulating listing seven malls as targets, the threat has been assessed and it is not considered to be a major concern,” he said.

Cavendish Square closed on Thursday morning July 15 because of the volatile situation in the country, according to a statement from the mall.