Coetzenburg muggings remain an uphill battle

Arleen Stone and Gizellede Götz

A recent spike in student muggings in the Coetzenburg area has students in unrest, as female students seem to be the target. Several students have reported their encounters with groups of men on social media, differing from approximately five to eight men per group.

According to victims, the men approached them at different, secluded parts of the Coetzenburg sports area, as well as along the slopes of the mountain. Due to its forested nature, ideal hiking and jogging trails, and picnicking spots, students regularly visit Coetzenburg to exercise or relax, oblivious to possible dangers.

Two third year BA Humanities students, Caitlin Venter and Nastasha Lombaard, had a close encounter in August this year.

A third victim of a separate incident several days prior to the encounter also spoke to Die Matie. She requested to remain anonymous. The anonymous victim, along with a female friend, was approached by a group of seven to eight men on the midday of 14 August. The men demanded to have all their possessions.

“I asked if I could keep my necklace, because it is a precious family heirloom, but he ripped it off my neck.”

The victim was aware of occasional muggings in the Coetzenburg area, but said she wished she had known about the possible danger beforehand.

Four days later Venter and Lombaard were taking a walk on the Coetzenburg sportsgrounds around midday.

“It was in the middle of the day, one would think it is only unsafe at night,” said Lombaard.

They walked past the Maties Underwater Club when five men appeared from around the corner of the building. In passing, the men catcalled the female students. A few minutes later Venter noticed a change of pace in the men’s steps, and saw two of the five men running towards them.

“I told Nastasha to run and we tried to run away from them when one grabbed my arm,” said Venter.

Lombaard ran ahead of Venter and turned around when she did not see Venter running next to her.

“I turned around and pointed my finger towards them and shouted at him. The man looked at me and let go of Caitlin’s arm,” explained Lombaard.

According to Venter, the men wrapped clothing around their heads so that their faces could not be seen. They demanded the students’ cell phones and any other possessions they had with them. While the men only took Venter’s cell phone from her, they stole Lombaard’s bank card and driver’s license.

In both cases the men told the students to run away after their possessions were taken.

“We had to run up the mountain, because they blocked our way back to campus. So after we hid ourselves in the bushes to catch our breath, we ran towards houses on the Jonkershoek side on the mountain.

“We had to climb down a steep hill and cross the Eersterivier, but we were willing to do anything to get to safety.”

“Luckily someone came out of their house. She opened for us and we could use their phone to call someone,” said Lombaard.

Afterwards Lombaard and Venter went directly to the police station to report what had happened. According to Luitenant Kolonel René Matthee from the Stellenbosch SAPD, they are aware of the mugging problem.  She stated that the station’s mounted police, in collaboration with Campus Security’s motorcycles, have been deployed in the area.

“Students should rather give over their cell phones and wallets if the muggers request it. A life is worth more than any possessions,” Matthee continued.

Despite multiple efforts Die Matie could not reach senior staff at Campus Security.

 

Photo: Jaco Roux

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