Theft at campsite bites

The view from Slangkop Tented Camp in Kommetjie. A theft at the campsite turned what would have been a camaraderie-building experience into a horrible one for members of the Harfield Harriers Running Club.PHOTO: Jen Rowe

The view from Slangkop Tented Camp in Kommetjie. A theft at the campsite turned what would have been a camaraderie-building experience into a horrible one for members of the Harfield Harriers Running Club.PHOTO: Jen Rowe

One night’s stay at Slangkop Tented Camp left members of the Harfield Harriers Running Club with almost R50 000 out of pocket and a huge sense of disappointment in SANPark’s alleged “failure to take accountability” after an incident of theft and trespassing at the facility run by the public entity.

On Saturday 12 February 12 members of the club overnighted at the campsite located close to Kommetjie.

Jen Rowe, chair of Harfield Harriers, explained they were there to organise and prepare for a run event the club hosts every year.

Around 19:30 that evening all the members met up at the camp’s boma for a braai. When they returned to their tents around 22:30, they discovered that three of the six tents – those closest to the ablution block and furthest away from the boma – had been burgled. Items stolen included wallets, prescription sunglasses, expensive running shoes and warm jackets.

“Some people lost everything,” Rowe said. “They arrived later and didn’t have time to unpack, so the thieves just picked up their still-packed bags and made off with them. They had also zipped the tents back up again which in my mind tells me they have done this before and weren’t panicking.”

Rowe is also the chair of the Harfield Community Improvement District. As part of her responsibilities, she deals with community safety and security issues on a daily basis. With this being the case, she says she is constantly aware of crime threats. However, she claims, on arrival they were told they would be safe once they were inside the camp.

“A wall with an electric fence on top encloses the campsite. You go through a padlocked gate to a parking area. Then you enter another gate, also with a padlock, into the secured facility. Seeing all of these locks, I asked the camp manager if we were safe and she said, yes, if we were sure to lock all the gates we would be safe inside the facility.”

Rowe said had the members known there were security issues at the camp they would not have left their luggage unattended.

“When I asked her [WHO’S THIS??] if we were safe, she had the opportunity to say don’t leave stuff in your tent. That is all she needed to say,” says Rowe.

Once the theft was discovered, Rowe immediately called the emergency number provided on a sign at the campsite. She was put through to Ocean View Police Station.

“The police arrived at about 23:30. The police walked around with us and we noticed that the electric fence was not on. The next morning, the camp manager confirmed that the electric fence had not been on that evening.”

After the theft Rowe and company could not sleep because they were worried the robbers would return.

“One of the ladies had her car keys in her bag and was worried they would come for her car. It was horrible.”

According to the camp rules on SANParks’s website, Slangkop is not patrolled at night by a security guard. It also states tents do not have safes in which valuables can be locked. It requests guests leave their precious items at home.

But Rowe feels this does not absolve SANParks of its responsibility to its guests.

“I own a guest house, so I understand the tourism industry and know how tough it has been. But this needs to be addressed publicly. They need to acknowledge the issue.

“The electric fence was not on. Why? And why isn’t there a security guard?”

Rowe says she still waits to hear from SANParks.

People’s Post contacted Lauren Clayton, regional communications manager of SANParks, who said the body was aware of the issue. “The matter has been reported to the South African Police Services and, therefore, has legal implications, therefore responding to your inquiry at this stage might not be of assistance,” she said.

“Secondly, we would need to conduct our own investigation to determine all the facts and until such time we are unable to provide you with a detailed account of the incident,” said Clayton.

Rowe said she also had not been contacted by an investigating officer from Ocean View Police Station. On Sunday morning following the theft, she went to the station only to find the responding officers from the previous night had not opened a case. She then reported the crime again.

Sgt Mfundo Nyengane, communication officer for Ocean View Police Station, confirmede a case of theft and trespassing had been opened and was being investigated. “The suspects are still at large,” he said.

According to Nyengane, when police officers are called to a property where a crime has been committed “they will determine if the crime was being committed and open a case on the spot.”

In January 2020, Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) issued a statement saying the Slangkop Tented Camp near Cape Town would close temporarily until the end of February that year following a spate of crimes.

Nyengane said in the past two years there hadn’t been any incidents at the Slangkop campsite.

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