Three South African expatriates and a Canadian were robbed at knifepoint at the top of Table Mountain on Tuesday, raising concerns about security at one of the world’s premier tourist attractions.
The Lewis family, originally of South Africa, moved to Canada in 1998 to avoid becoming victims of crime.
However, their fears became a reality on Tuesday when they were attacked on top of the mountain during their brief return to South Africa for a family visit.
“I know this could happen to anyone but what gets to me is that it was on a national heritage site, supposed to be one of the safest places in the country.
“It was brazen and during the day. It was on a walking trail with no warning and no security to prevent something like this. It is very disappointing,” Richard Lewis, the father of the family, told the Cape Argus.
However, he said he was still upbeat about South Africa and would remember the good aspects of their trip. The family arrived in Cape Town last Friday.
Lewis, his wife, Barbara, son Gareth, 24, daughter Bronwyn, 23, and her Canadian boyfriend, Harrison Boyse, 22, decided to take the cable car up Table Mountain early Tuesday morning.
At about 9am, Barbara decided to rest at a shop on top of the mountain while the rest of the group made their way towards Maclear’s Beacon.
At the beacon two armed men attacked them.
“They both carried switchblade knives which they kept waving around saying: ‘Do you want to die here?’, and ‘Don’t make us stab you’. We decided to just give them what they wanted instead of risking our lives,” Lewis said.
The group handed over their backpacks, wallets, cellphones, watches and camera.
Still not satisfied, the robbers searched their pockets and demanded their passports.
Boyse said the thieves became agitated but were willing to return passports and a memory card if someone took it from the camera.
“They didn’t know how it worked and, even though it was a risk, I decided to try and retrieve the card. They were getting really edgy and as soon as we got the memory card we began running back to the cable car.”
When the group looked back, the robbers were moving up the mountain and going through the backpacks.
The family managed to alert police, and park rangers began to search the area immediately.
A helicopter scanned the area, but found no signs of the robbers.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz described the incident as “absolutely absurd”.
“We can’t have tourists coming and being mugged at a national heritage site.”
He added that the option of increasing security should be seriously considered.
Police plan to continue their search on Wednesday.
Table Mountain National Park spokeswoman Merle Collins said that they were aware of and disturbed by the incident.
“The incident is most concerning. However, our security cannot prevent all the incidents. While they patrol 24/7, the area they have to cover is too massive to stop all incidents.”