Call for hiker safety

Two hikers on route to the amphitheatre on the Ou Kraal hiking trail above Kalk Bay.

SANParks will deploy additional resources on the mountain above Kalk Bay after at least five hikers were attacked and stabbed on Saturday January 13 near the amphitheatre.

This follows a spate of violent attacks on Noordhoek Beach in recent months (“Beach crime wave”, Echo, January 11) as well as incidents reported at Platteklip and Peers Cave.

On Saturday, police launched a manhunt for the attackers but no arrests were made.

However, two men who were positively identified in the Platteklip incident as well as an incident at Signal Hill, were arrested by police, SANParks spokeswoman, Merle Collins, confirmed.

There appears to be conflicting reports from police and Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) as to what happened during the attack.

WSAR spokesman, Johann Marais, said a group of nine hikers were following the Mimetes Valley trail.

He said he wasn’t sure if their starting point was on Boyes Drive or at Silvermine Nature Reserve.

The group was later joined by two men posing as hikers. The men hiked with them for about half an hour before pulling out knives and attacking them.

Mr Marais said after the attack the group split up and some of the injured were assisted by a medical doctor who also hiked in the area and then all the injured parties were airlifted from the mountain by Skymed.

According to police spokeswoman, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, the victims were approached by two men of which one had a knife.

However, UK resident Yvonne Cormack, 67, who is one of the victims, told the Cape Argus she and her husband were hiking with a group of seven other hikers when they were attacked by two men around 10am

She said they were just walking when the two men came running at them with knives.

Ms Cormack said they first attacked one of the women who was standing on a rock taking photos and then shouted at them to throw their phones and bags to the ground.

She said her husband, Don, 71, was next to be attacked and the men stabbed him nine times all over his body.

Ms Cormack was stabbed in the back of her head and arm after attacking the men who were assaulting her husband with a stick.

She said the attacker followed another hiker who was trying to get a signal on his phone and hit him in the face with a rock.

“He is in a critical condition in hospital and they operated on him for hours,” she said.

She said after taking their bags and phones the attackers just left. Some of the hikers found a group that was nearby who had a doctor and he attended to them.

She said her husband and another man could not walk so she waited with them until the rescue helicopter came. “We are lucky to be alive. I won’t forget that knife coming at me and cutting into my skin,” she said.

Ahmed Said Sibda, who is part of a social hiking group, said about eight of them went hiking from Silvermine to Kalk Bay on the same day and came upon the group shortly after the attack. “As we got over the mountain we found some hikers who had just been stabbed hectically on the route, blood everywhere. A literal blood bath.”

Mr Sibda said had they been at the spot earlier, it could have been them.

“We were meant to leave 30 minutes earlier on that exact route to where they got stabbed 15 minutes before we found them.”

Ms Sibda said SANParks need to step up security.

“SANParks need to install surveillance cameras at trouble areas and beef up security.”

Sergeant Rwexana said no arrests have been made and a case of robbery with a weapon other than a firearm has been opened.

Mr Marais said those hikers who were not injured were very traumatised but were able to provide police with a detailed description of the attackers. “It is a sad state of affairs when people can’t enjoy the mountains anymore,” he said.

Meridian Hiking Club hike leader, Keith Evans, was leading a group near the Muletrack high path when he saw the helicopter and thought to himself that someone must be hurt.

He said he was shocked when he heard what had happened as he was planning a similar hike in two weeks but has since decided to cancel it.

He said it was very easy for would-be robbers to sit on the fringe of the amphitheatre on the Silvermine side and watch hikers approach. “They can easily see when a group has separated even by 50 meters,” he said.

Mr Evans encouraged hikers to join a club. He said there are rules hikers have to follow and each hike is led by an experienced leader.

He still believes hikers should hike in groups as you are less likely to be attacked in a group.

Ms Collins said additional resources deployed would include joint operations with SAPS, ongoing surveillance of observation points to monitor the mountain, an increase in patrol areas, the deployment of the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) dog unit, identifying possible escape routes to assist SAPS in apprehending the suspects and gathering on site evidence to assist with successful conviction.

“Further operational meetings will take place during the course of this week with SAPS and other law enforcement agencies to solidify operational plans. Given the extent and remoteness of the park, it is a challenge to have a constant presence in the area.

“However, the safety of park goers is important and it must be stressed that citizens remain vigilant given they enter at their own risk,” Ms Collins said.