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MOTHER CITY CRIME

Table Mountain muggings continue despite intensified safety and security measures

Table Mountain muggings continue despite intensified safety and security measures
Illustrative image: Criminal attacks on visitors on Table Mountain continue. (Photos: Gallo Images / Nardus Engelbrecht | Samane Jnr Marks)

Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park is still plagued by muggings despite SANParks reviving the Table Mountain National Park Safety and Security Forum, which includes SANParks, the SAPS and the City of Cape Town, and devoting additional resources to boost safety on the mountain.

The spate of muggings in Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park has continued into 2024 despite intensified efforts to boost security and patrols.

On Sunday, 21 January, a suspected mugger fell to his death with stolen possessions after ambushing a hiking group heading past Slangolie Ravine, according to a News24 report.

His body was discovered in a gorge on Monday afternoon after SAPS members and Table Mountain National Park rangers went to the scene to locate a stolen phone.

Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Pojie from the Western Cape SAPS media centre told Daily Maverick that Camps Bay police had opened an inquest docket to “investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of an alleged mugger in his mid-twenties who fell to his death”.

In another incident on 21 January, two men reportedly robbed and attempted to rape two tourists — a Japanese national and a Dutch national — on the Slangolie hiking trail. The tourists were robbed of their phones and jewellery. One was injured and received medical assistance. 

A suspect, Syndey Wolhuter (23) was arrested on Lion’s Head in connection with the incident, while the second suspect remains at large.

Wolhuter appeared in the Cape Town Magistrates’ Court on 24 January. He is charged with two counts of robbery, two counts of attempted rape and one of assault. The matter was postponed to 7 February for his bail application.  

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

On 13 January, a Cape Town paediatrician was mugged near the King’s Blockhouse above Rhodes Memorial, a well-known landmark on the slopes of Devil’s Peak.

The doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was walking on the slopes at 4pm when he was approached by three “quite young and well-dressed” men emerging from the other side of the blockhouse.

“I greeted them. Before I could even walk any further, they attacked me, threw me to the ground and immediately searched my backpack and pockets to take everything. 

“They had a knife to my head and one knee on my neck. They then wanted my PIN number. I was screaming very loudly.”

They hit him across the face as he shouted out some numbers.

“I got them all wrong, fortunately. While they were busy, I managed to roll away from underneath these two guys after two unsuccessful attempts. With my third attempt at escaping, I rolled a few metres further, then I realised that they weren’t following me any more.”  

The injured paediatrician spent the night at Vincent Pallotti Hospital, where he was treated for bruises, abrasions and a penetrating wound from his jaw into his mouth.  

Increased effort, questionable impact

The spate of muggings continues despite SANParks reviving the Table Mountain National Park Safety and Security Forum, which includes SANParks, the SAPS and the City of Cape Town, and devoting additional resources to boost safety on the mountain.

In December 2023, SANParks committed to improving safety in the national park. This followed a protest by Friends of Lion’s Head calling for an increase in the budget for security to protect mountain users. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Determined Table Mountain guide faces fears and returns to work a week after mugging ordeal

Taahir Osman, the founder of the group Take Back Our Mountains, said there were eight reported muggings in December and nine so far in January. 

He expressed gratitude to “SANParks for providing additional assistance through aerial patrols during the holiday season”. However, he said the collaboration between SANParks and the city should continue beyond the festive season. 

“It is crucial to maintain consistent policing efforts. Efforts to combat crime through sustained vigilance and the deployment of competent personnel will yield significant results.” 

‘I have given up now’

Mugging victims have expressed frustration at the slow response and lack of follow-through by the police.

Rickert Mulder is a frequent runner of the RMB Ultra Trail in Cape Town. He was robbed in October with two of his friends while running between Simon’s Town and Kommetjie, in the far south of Cape Town. 

He told Daily Maverick, “Most SAPS officers want you to only report crime at SAPS for insurance purposes. I have given up now. I don’t expect SAPS to do anything at this point.”  

Daily Maverick asked SAPS about claims it had failed to respond timeously to reports of crime on the mountain or follow up on such cases. The SAPS’s Pojie noted that law enforcement authorities were working on the matter.

Captured data

According to unofficial stats from Friends of Table Mountain, there were more than 80 muggings on Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head last year. 

Andre Colling, a private sector intelligence analyst, has been recording mugging attacks and robberies across all the hiking trails in the Table Mountain National Park. He recorded 309 crime incidents, which include muggings, attempted muggings, car break-ins and stabbings, between 2018 and 2023. 

“Criminals … will target persons or assets near escape routes. The boundary edge [of the Table Mountain National Park] is also target-rich — vehicles, lots of people starting journeys from similar spots, etc, with very little security apart from car guards interested in money more than actually doing a security job.” 

He said that SANParks was struggling to halt the attacks.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Table Mountain muggings: How do you secure a national park with 850km of trails? 

JP Louw, the head of communications at SANParks, told Daily Maverick the Table Mountain National Park Safety and Security Forum had been relaunched to address “all safety concerns in the Table Mountain National Park and facilitate the necessary action plans among all relevant stakeholders”. 

Louw said Table Mountain was in the process of appointing seven more field rangers. Four appointments were made over December and January and nine are due to be made in February.

“Throughout the year, SANParks rangers continue with their patrols and conservation efforts and are deployed on foot, bicycle, vessel and vehicle patrols.”

Common hotspot areas

The chairperson of the Table Mountain Bikers initiative, Robert Vogel,  welcomed the boost in tourism monitors to fight crime, “but the truth is that this type of crime requires rangers with crime prevention experience of the mountain”. 

Hotspots where cyclists were mugged were the slopes of Signal Hill and the Rhodes Memorial precinct from the King’s Blockhouse.

He called for “the deployment of visible patrols [at hotspots] because crime generally occurs where the urban fringe meets the mountain”.

Other crime hotspots in the park were Lion’s Head, Slangolie Ravine, Tafelberg Road and Vredehoek Quarry. 

Safety tips

Recommended safety tips for mountain users: 

  • Report suspicious behaviour or fires being set;
  • Always be aware of your surroundings;
  • Tell someone reliable where you are going;
  • Know your access and escape routes; and
  • Travel in groups.

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

Additional reporting by Kathryn Cleary.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • David R says:

    I wrote to SANPArks a few years ago suggesting that they use the same method that the shark spotters do, a few binoculars and two way radios with staff placed at certain vantage peaks watching what happens below and notifying rangers on the ground of any suspicous characters.
    It was suggested by SANParks that i join a volountary organisation!!

  • Malcolm Dunkeld says:

    There is a suspicious surge in crime in key areas of the economy. Eskom and urban electricity infrastructure, rail infrastructure and now tourism have all been hit hard. Perhaps our intelligence services should put some thought to who might benefit.

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