Mountain safety in spotlight

Concerns have been raised over the safety of local hiking trails after several mugging incidents have been reported, particularly at Newlands Forest and Rhodes Memorial.

Various posts have been shared on social media over the past few weeks with a post on Cape Town Hiking with Tim Lundy reading: “Newlands Forest and Kings Blockhouse areas are a real problem at the moment. Four muggings in 20 days. Last one was today on a Japanese tourist who had to be rushed to hospital due to his injuries. Authorities are patrolling the area but it’s a huge area so be very careful if you plan on going out there.”

Similar posts and warnings were shared on the Take Back Our Mountains and Parkspace Facebook pages.

Claremont police station commander Colonel Maree Louw, however, said they only had one reported mugging that took place during August.

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.

“It’s a big concern that criminals are no longer targeting parking lots and muggings at the bottom of hiking trails. Most of the recent attacks happened higher up on trails; they even tied up a guy in Newlands Forest,” he said.

Peter Phillips from Cape Union Mart Hiking Club (CUMHike), said he was aware of the incident where a Japanese tourist had been mugged on the contour path above Rhodes Memorial. He said the area was a popular tourist destination and was therefore a mugging hot spot.

“There’s access to Rhodes Memorial from Mostert’s Mill and UCT, as well as the normal route from the old zoo. The Kings Blockhouse is known to be a notorious trouble hot spot. Tafelberg Road is also a popular access to the King’s Blockhouse,” he said.

Rondeboschpolice spokesman, Warrant Officer Lyndon Sisam, confirmed the incident took place on Thursday September 20 at 1pm.

He said the Japanese tourist was 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 firearm.

“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.

Warrant Officer Sisam said a case of robbery with firearm was opened but said the suspects were still at large.

Mr Phillips advised hikers not to hike alone, to never go anywhere without a map and to hike with someone who knows the mountain and its paths.

Mr Osman concurred, encouraging hikers to join hiking/ trail running clubs or to move in larger groups and avoid the hot spot areas.

Jade Hanning, south district manager at Fidelity ADT, gave the following advice:

Carry some form of identification on you, so that any bystanders will know who you are and who to contact in case of an emergency.

There is safety in numbers. We discourage running, hiking or cycling alone. Rather join a group of people who can look out for your safety and also offer encouragement along the way.

Another good idea is to ensure someone you trust, knows that you are headed out for a run or cycle, has an idea of the route you plan to take and when you expect you will return. In this way, they can quickly raise the alarm if you do not return as planned.

Wear reflective clothing to make sure you are visible to other road users. Run against traffic and cycle with traffic. This makes you even more visible to others.

Changing up your route and training time makes it difficult for any would-be criminal to anticipate your movements.

Find out from your security company if they offer a mobile tracking app which can be downloaded on your cellphone. This is an effective way of alerting emergency service providers when you need them while also giving them your accurate location, especially if you are running or hiking along a mountain path or in a forest.