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