SA climbers targets of armed gangs

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‘The public are losing their access to rockclimbing sites’

Criminal gangs have taken control of four of the twelve popular rockclimbing-sites in greater Johannesburg and Pretoria, warned Mountain Club of South Africa spokesman Dean van der Merwe this week. Three Pretoria students were held at knifepoint in a 3-hour ordeal by six black males on Jan 12 2011; climbers were robbed at knifepoint on 29 December and two climbers also were attacked last week at the Chosspile rockface north of Brits at the Hartbeespoort dam.

“These past few years rock-climbers are beginning to get the identical problems with violent criminals also experienced by mountain-bikers. It’s becoming a big problem because the public are losing their access to their climbing sites”, “said Van der Merwe. A similar warning was also issued by Neil Margetts, chairman of the South African Mountain Climbing Federation, after the latest incident on Jan 12 near Brits.

MAP HARTBEESPOORT ROCKCLIMBERS ATTACKED JAN2011

Students Jaco de Villiers,Gert vd Walt,Dennis Wevell held 3 hrs at knifepoint during mountainclimbing Chosspile Rockface, Jan 12 2011, 6 black males Hartbeespoortdam, Brits 

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2011-01-17  Three Pretoria students were grateful to be alive after a three-hour ordeal when six black knifemen tied them up and threatened to cut their throats on Wednesday Jan 12 2011. The three Pretoria University students had gone rockclimbing on the Johann Rissik Estate on the Brits-side of the Hartbeespoort Dam.  They were planning to  climb the Chosspile Rockface and were hiking the 1km from the parking lot to the picnic area when they were attacked by a well-organised gang of black knifemen.

They told of their ordeal in an interview with Jacques Steenkamp of Beeld newspaper. Jaco de Villiers (21) , Gert van der Walt (24) and Dennis Wevell (22) had parked their car at a parking terrain next to the R512 highway and were walking the 1 km to the picnic area below Chosspile Rockface when  six black men, seperated in three groups of two knifemen each, attacked the students and held knives against their throats.

De Villiers Jaco ROCKCLIMBER SURVES 3HR KNIFEMAN ORDEAL JAN142011 HARTBEES_BRITS Jaco de Villiers: robbed by knifemen with two friends while rockclimbing

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De Viliers: “We were forced into the woods, trussed up by our hands and feet with telephone cables and robbed of all our belongings”, De Villiers said. Then Van der Walt ‘s feet were loosened and he was forced to walk with them into the woods. His two friends feared that he was going to be murdered. When they complained the two friends also were taken to the spot where Van der Walt was forced to lie down facedown on the ground. Two of the knifemen demanded their PIN-codes and bank cards and left to withdraw cash from the nearest cashpoint. “One of the knifemen kept saying to De Villiers: “I am looking for your head’, picked up his head and gestured with his fingers across his neck while another one kept sharpening his knife and stabbing Van Der Walt’s legs with it. Then the gang loosened the students’ hands and left with all their belongings: cellphones, watches, cameras and climbing equipment worth some R40,000.

Mountain Club of South Africa spokesman Dean van der Merwe said climbers were also robbed at knifepoint on 29 December last year and two climbers were attacked at Chosspile. “These past few years rock-climbers are beginning to get the identical problems with criminals also experienced by mountain-bikers. It’s becoming a big problem because the public is losing their access to their climbing sites.’ It was also confirmed by Neil Margetts, chairman of the South African Mountain Climbing Federation, that criminal gangs have also already taken control of four of the twelve climbing-sites in Johannesburg and Pretoria. http://www.beeld.com/Suid-Afrika/Nuus/Student-hoor-Ek-soek-jou-kop-20110117

About Adriana Stuijt
Retired South African-Dutch journalist formerly Sunday Times Johannesburg

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