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‘He said he would chop my finger off’ — hikers describe ordeal after two more Cape Town mountain muggings

‘He said he would chop my finger off’ — hikers describe ordeal after two more  Cape Town mountain muggings
Some of the hikers and runners who took part in a peaceful protest at Lion's Head to demand safety and security on the mountain on 1 December 2023. (Photo: Samane Jnr Marks)

The latest attacks within the Table Mountain National Park involved a mountain guide and her American friend, as well as a group of mountain bikers. Both groups were held up at knifepoint. Two suspects were arrested in connection with the biker incident.

In the first incident, which occurred between 8.15am and 9am on Monday, mountain guide Brinny Ridgway and a tourist friend from North Carolina in the US were robbed by a man wielding a knife on the Kasteelspoort hiking trail on Table Mountain.

It is the latest in a spate of muggings in the Table Mountain National Park, and which led to a peaceful protest last Friday to highlight safety and security issues.

The Kasteelspoort trail takes hikers to a lesser-visited part of Table Mountain, with views of Camps Bay, Lion’s Head, Clifton beaches and the mountain range. 

Ridgway, who has 15 years’ experience as a mountain guide, told Daily Maverick the robber was hiding behind a bush at the top of the trail, dressed in khaki pants. He suddenly jumped in front of them with a “big knife”, ordering them not to move. 

“He ordered us to sit down, which we did. And then he took my wedding ring, and said he would chop my finger off as I was having difficulty taking it off. He took my friend’s phone and asked me if I had any cash, and I said yes. I gave him all my cash, including my cellphone,” she said. 

“He then wanted me to log into my bank account and transfer some money to him, but there’s no reception there. I explained to him, and showed him, I was trying to log in. I said to my friend just sit down and don’t look at him. After we gave him the cash he actually calmed down. 

“He gave me my purse and driver’s licence back, [and] all my cards. At some stage he said ‘shame’ to me after taking my phone. He went a little way down to get reception, and said we shouldn’t move. As he went down the path we quickly gathered our bags and went up the mountain as quickly as we could.” 

They bumped into two women from the mountain club and told them what had happened, and then reported the incident at Camps Bay police station. 

Daily Maverick sent queries to the police but had not received a response by the time of publication. 

Bikers held up

In another incident on Monday, mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said a robbery was reported at Signal Hill, and two arrests were made.

Table Mountain muggings

Mugging sites using unofficial statistics collected by volunteers working with Friends of Table Mountain.

A group of mountain bikers had been “held up at knifepoint and mugged of their valuables” on the jeep track close to Military Road.

A description of the attackers was quickly circulated “among various role players” within the Table Mountain National Park Safety Forum. “A short while later, SAPS arrested a suspect matching the description, while the second suspect had disappeared.”

After the second suspect was detained he was “positively identified as the known accomplice and arrested”. 

“We now need to ensure that these perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Hikers step up action to reclaim trails from ‘handful of thugs’ after Table Mountain muggings

Andy Davies from Friends of Table Mountain (FOTM) told Daily Maverick the Kasteelspoort incident is “unprecedented”.

“It is the first time an attack has been reported that high up on the side of the mountain.” 

The latest attacks are among more than 80 muggings that have been reported on Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head in 2023, according to the FOTM. 

‘A lot has been taken away’

Capetonian Lisa Allerman, who was mugged by armed men in a separate incident, said that for years Table Mountain has been the place where she “fills her cup”. 

“The trees, the tranquillity and the fresh air helped me to clear my mind and process thoughts after a busy day.” 

But on Monday, 23 October, the mountain became a place of fear. 

“I was at Table Mountain at one point and I looked up and got an eerie feeling that something was really off… and I told myself I must turn around. Suddenly I saw two men dressed in black, robbing a woman and her child. They were about 50m away. I tried to phone for help but I could hardly get a word out because immediately the men approached me.

The criminals are well aware that once they try anything in town they’ll get caught, so they go to Table Mountain because there is no beefed-up security.

“I begged them not to hurt me and I handed over my phone, even volunteered the necklace I was wearing. Immediately after that the two men robbed another person in the vicinity and disappeared.

“Even though I got away unharmed, the trauma and feelings of violation still haunt me. I haven’t had the courage to go back to the mountain,” she admits. A lot has been taken, comfort, the feeling of freedom, and the feeling of safety.” 

Preservationists on Lion’s Head after a march to demand increased policing from SANParks. (Photo: Samane Jnr Marks)

Crime has no boundary, said Taahir Osman, the founder of Take Back Our Mountains (TBOM), an organisation that arranges secure hikes and runs in all high-risk areas in the Table Mountain National Park.

“The criminals are taking advantage because there is no beefed-up security on the ground. It’s all about talk-show hype whenever there is a crime in the media, but being on the group doing regular patrols is a different story,” he told Daily Maverick

“Crime is something that has been inherited from social and economic challenges years ago, that is why we’re severely struggling nowadays. The City has advanced its surveillance within the CBD with all these small security units to boost safety in the inner city, only forgetting all these other areas like Table Mountain National Park.

“The criminals are well aware that once they try anything in town they’ll get caught, so they go to Table Mountain because there is no beefed-up security. SANParks isn’t putting much effort in intensifying its efforts to curb these ongoing spate of attacks on mountain users. The national park is currently a weak point.”

Hot Spots, a petition and emergency line

Common crime hotspots  in the Table Mountain National Park include:

  • Signal Hill on the slopes 
  • Sea Point Side and the city side  
  • The cycling trail around Lion’s Head 
  • The pipe track 

FOTM have started a campaign to stop crime. Here is a link to its petition 

If you feel threatened or uncomfortable on the mountain you can call the city’s emergency line on 021-4807700. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • ngwenya20sihlobo says:

    Arrived in Cape town yesterday and didn’t hear about that I ain’t going there anymore it’s good here at waterfront so sorry to the victims

  • Charles Dominion says:

    Secure your bank accounts by walking with a spare phone without banking apps and a separate SIM card. Take nothing of value with you. If there’s nothing to steal, perhaps we’ll be left alone. Theft is a living for millions of people….

  • This has been an issue for a very long time (years) and SanParks have completely abdicated their responsibility in this regard. Meanwhile, they rake in millions of Rands of income from the park, very little of which is spent here. Either SanParks need to come to the party and work with the City of Cape Town, CapeNature and, most importantly, civil society groups on actually managing this urban National Park (and that includes environmental crimes such as bark stripping, fires and baboon monitoring and management) or they need to hand it back to the City (they don’t actually own it, they manage it under a contract with the City).

    • Lisa Tamarozzi says:

      I completely agree and why has this not happened yet? SANParks have not being doing their job for years now, just as it has been mentioned they take in millions and put nothing back, much like government!

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      This is a failure of policing. Sanparks is not a law enforcement agency so I think your criticism is completely misplaced. Interesting that you don’t even mention the plod as a ‘role player’ when fixing problems of this sort is quite literally their reason for existence.

  • Medford Torr says:

    For now until the city can catch by putting more security in place. Consider carrying pepper spray and find out how to use it, Have it on hand and be ready to use it. Go out in bigger groups of four or more.

    This is also an intimidation tactic to create fear so stay strong and move in greater number.

    My last suggestion is more undercover well armed police and security member patrols as hikers and bikers.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    Those responsible for these mountain trail areas (SANPARKS or Cape Nature ??) should be held to account for these ongoing atrocities. But of course; we live in a country where there is ZERO accountability and criminals do as they please. All the while one has to wander what impact all this brazen criminality has on tourism. Tragic!!

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Meanwhile our Cyril has a few hundred personal security….and, with Phala Phala still gets robbed blind….. if he was robbed at all.

    • Richard Blake says:

      You don’t hide money under your mattress or in your couch unless you have something to hide. He is a criminal like the rest of the ANC.

  • Vincent Britz says:

    And yet our corrupt ANC government does nothing like they always do! It actually won’t surprise me if they have a hand in this to tarnish the reputation of the Western cape. As crime and criminals run wild in all the corrupt ANC run province’s!

  • C vS says:

    Not good news for SA, Cape Town and tourism in general.
    And Samane JNR Marks, please do a final edit before posting and article, e.g. “Hot Spots, a petition and emergency line ” towards the end of the article.

    • Steven Burnett says:

      CvS, is the view lekker from your glass house? Please don’t start a sentence with “And”. Then you should also learn the difference between “and” and “an”.

  • Deon Maartens says:

    Robberies on Table Mountain nothing new. When I was in the SAPS, many moons ago, we patrolled and were visible and the Robberies became so few and far between… no visible policing, hardly any effort today by SAPS or the Detective Branch where I was stationed. Of course, those days, we were keen to do the job properly and believed prevension was better than cure.

  • Pieter Steyn says:

    All said and accepted. How do you propose to provide protection at a reasonable cost considering the circumstances?

  • Malcolm Royal says:

    I no longer live in South Africa. I visit annually.

    There was a vigilante group in Cape Town PAGAD. I think they were closed down by Law Enforcement Agencies.
    Is it not time for The City of Cape Town to revitalize PAGAD and let them loose on Table Mountain Thugs who terrorize walkers on the Mountain, some of whom are foreign tourists. These are the people that bring needed foreign exchange to The SA Economy.
    When State Security Agencies cannot protect its citizens in all situations and locations, is it not time to look at and consider other options?
    Our Ministers and other politicians seem to have their own Ruthless Private Priority BLUE LIGHT Brigades; let there be vigilantes for the ordinary man in the street.

  • Richard Blake says:

    And while this is happening Cele the fool is unable to explain to parliament why police officers that have been charged for murder and rape are still employed at SAPS.

  • Piet Piet says:

    To beat a monster, you get a bigger monster.

  • Mkulu Zulu says:

    The need to iliminate a few of these useless thugs is overdue, once done the attacks will calm down!

  • rowland.naude says:

    Once again, a handful of Thugs permitted to Rubish the Lives of so many..particularly South African Residents..Deal with this Thuggery or beware the consequences of your typical Non-caring attitude.

  • Jennifer D says:

    Come on COCT – do something urgently – this is completely unacceptable! Tourism is the lifeblood of the WC – take some action!!!!

  • J vN says:

    Ubuntu in action.

  • Frank Fettig says:

    The more the ANC steals, the more the poor are forced to turn to crime. Crime breeds crime. Thanks for a better life for us all! Viva!

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Train with, carry and be prepared to use a handgun for defense against robbers armed with knives. Not a hard concept to get ones head around.

  • Simon Winde says:

    On Ou Wapad (Noordhoek side). I have never ever seen a Sanparks officer. Never. I’m often out. There are signs that it isn’t safe and still nothing is being done about it. Staff drive around in their bakkies. Sit at the gate in their bakkies. When I contacted the person responsible here from Sanparks, Mrs Tapling, she never replies. I don’t understand that with the unemployed we have in this country, why is it that we don’t have rangers on foot and bicycle patrolling our parks?

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