Table Mountain’s easy targets: On the trail with a Hout Bay mugger

“You can do whatever you want. You can get away quickly. It’s easy.”

In the fishing community of Hangberg, below the westernmost kink of the Cape Peninsula’s crooked spine, lives a man who has, by his reckoning, mugged more than forty hikers and mountain cyclists in the last eight years. His name, for the purposes of this account, is Norton. He is diminutive and quick-eyed, with slicked hair and a bony jaw. He has thin scars across his forehead and neck. Although he is older than thirty, he looks, from afar, like a compact teenager, with arms too long for his body. He is not at all physically imposing but is capable of astonishing acts of violence.

His first mugging took place at the base of the Karbonkelberg trail, less than two kilometres walk from his current home, an overcrowded tenement belonging to his aunt. The trail winds steeply towards an abandoned radar station, built during World War Two, and offers grand views of Hout Bay and the Atlantic. It was once a popular recreational route but has become a mountain crime hotspot over the last decade, drawing fewer visitors than it used to. Most updated guides carry warnings — “It is not recommended that you go alone. Keep a mace spray on you for extra protection. Do not display your gadgets too publically,” advises one Western Cape hiking blog. Table Mountain Watch, a volunteer safety group, declared the area a no-go zone in 2010, a few years after Norton began working the slopes.

“It was a gay guy with a 4×4,” he told me of the incident that established his routine. “He had six or seven ladies with him. I was waiting a few turns up from the gate and watched them park. As they approached I hid myself in the bushes and started to practice. When they passed I took out my gun and asked them just to relax.”

Norton demanded their cash, jewellery, and cellphones, making them lay the items on a jacket to avoid scratches. Then he told them to step backwards. “You get mad people who will grab the gun or try fight. I didn’t want to shoot anyone; then I’d have had to shoot them all. Not that I don’t have the guts.”

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Article by By Kimon de Greef


6 Responses to Table Mountain’s easy targets: On the trail with a Hout Bay mugger

  1. Michael Aug 22, 2018 at 1:41 pm #

    Reading this Groundup article really left me feeling so sad. Sad that society has left some communities behind. Sad that as human beings we’ve let so many people slip through the cracks. Of course it’s easy to feel enraged, but what does this help? The sadness of knowing that I’ll never be able to show my children these beautiful remote places is overwhelming. One of the commenters to that article mentioned that they carry firearms into the hills. I don’t think they have any idea how violent these criminals are; they will quickly lose those firearms and further perpetuate this problem. Sadly, I don’t think there is a solution to this. The problem is deeply embedded in socio economic imbalances, where, to these people, the thought of spending tens of thousands of Rands to climb a cliff face for enjoyment doesn’t make any sense. The hills are too vast. The ONLY move to any solution here I think is twofold; one part is to change legislation to make any form of crime on tourism to be seen as a form of treason, with grave penalties. This then coupled to a tourism board funded group stationed at keypoints with trained drone pilots to act on intel and cases, and track these criminals. Here’s the ringer though: if you catch one, it means nothing. There are 20 more scumbags like this.

  2. xmod Aug 22, 2018 at 5:58 pm #

    How the hell can anyone write an article like this. Just frikkin get the guy arrested already, he’s already incriminated himself with this confession. People like this should be behind bars period!!!

  3. Willem Boshoff Aug 23, 2018 at 11:35 am #

    Support community safety organisations such as Table Mountain Watch and the Table Mountain Safety Action Group. The police simply does not have the man-power to deal with the issue – we unfortunately have to take responsibility for our own safety.

    On a political level I support the DA’s call to get the army involved to eradicate the scourge of gangs around Cape Town – it is a self-perpetuating system which turns kids into addicts into gangsters into violent criminals and murderers.

  4. Justin Lawson Aug 23, 2018 at 12:12 pm #

    A very well done and interesting report I thought… the insight into ‘Nortons’ mind is scary and amazing at the same time!

    What is clear, that if you hand over your goods without resisting, you will (for the most part) be left physically unharmed.

    Like Willem says above, support organisations such as Table Mountain Watch and the Table Mountain Safety Action Group.

  5. Robert Aug 23, 2018 at 2:25 pm #

    This article is from 2016…. I read it back then. This is Kimon’s sequel on poaching from last week:

  6. Albert Aug 25, 2018 at 9:58 am #

    Great read. And quite a rare opportunity to sneak peak into the criminal mind.

    Hollywood and their lame stories kan maar gaan slaap. Issues and stories like this has real and direct impact on our lives. Situations and conditions on our doorstep that almost always goes untold / unnoticed.

    Well done and keep up the good writing Kimon

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