Call for safer catwalk

The walkers gathered at St James to discuss how to tackle the issue.

Last week’s brutal attack on a 67-year-old woman on the Muizenberg to Kalk Bay catwalk has galvanised the surrounding communities to reclaim the scenic walkway from criminals.

Residents Robert and Louise Bowden heard of the latest attack last week and decided to take action. Mr Bowden posted a Facebook appeal for people to join a march along the catwalk on Saturday October 14.

He said the time for talking was over and that people needed to stake their claim, band together and use the catwalk even more frequently to deter criminals.

The group of about 30 people who took part in the march walked over dried blood from the earlier attack on Marina da Gama resident Nicky Everett: a man had lobbed a rock onto Ms Everett’s head, putting her in hospital.

Cheryl Cost, of Marina da Gama, saw what happened. She and a friend and their children had been walking back to Muizenberg from St James beach on Tuesday afternoon when they came across “a huge pool of blood” and the injured woman. Some runners had come to her aid after hearing her screams.

“Blood was gushing from the wound as we waited for the police and paramedics. The lady was totally disoriented and did not know her name or her address and was in shock. She was taken to hospital,” Ms Cost said.

“Something has to be done to ensure the safety of the public. Sunrise beach also has many attacks and robberies. These issues must be addressed. These areas are great tourism areas but this crime will kill tourism at this rate.”

After Saturday’s catwalk march, two new Facebook groups – Walk the Catwalk and Catwalk Walking Group – were set up to arrange safe walking groups. A runners’ group has also been started for the same reason: safety in numbers.

There was also a call to owners of Muizenberg properties to become interested in the area. Mr Bowden said many owners lived elsewhere and many Muizenberg residents were tenants.

Samantha Lee, one of the people who supported Saturday’s march, said that hurt people, hurt other people. “I think that if we want to experience safety and security in Muizenberg, we have to work on creating safe spaces for children growing up in communities all around us.”

Joah Periera, a business owner in the area, suggested that the car guards be given a few spots along the catwalk to help keep it safe, and that they be paid either by cash or a voucher redeemable for food or shelter, as part of a system that catwalk users could opt to buy into.

Many walkers also wanted the City of Cape Town to allow dogs to be walked on the catwalk.

Leigh Schuhbauer said she and other residents had been fined by Metro police for walking their dogs. “Meanwhile muggers on the catwalk do not appear to be a priority for them. If we were allowed to walk our dogs that would naturally be a deterrent to criminals. Instead, they get free run of the catwalk, and we have to walk on Main Road,” she said.

Heidi Drew and her friend, Marilyn Walton, walk the catwalk often but have been put off by the more frequent attacks. The said extra security was needed.

Muizenberg police spokesman Captain Stephen Knapp of Muizenberg SAPS said Ms Everett had since been “reunited with her family.”

He said he could not release statistics, but there had been “a few” attacks this year. Police had foot and bicycle patrols on the catwalk, he said, and more would be deployed for the festive season.

“Civilian staff are also deployed and utilised to do pamphlet drives informing the community of safety issues,” he said.

Police had made two arrests earlier in the year in connection with catwalk attacks, but the suspects had been released because the complainants had been tourists and unable to give further evidence.

Eddie Andrews, mayoral committee member for area south, said the City had hired two “rent-a-cops” patrol to the area between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay between 9am and 4pm, from Monday to Friday.

“The Muizenberg local enforcement officers also patrol this area, especially on weekends when the rent-a-cops are not on duty.”

Mr Andrews said the City had considered various dog-walking zones for the walkway between Muizenberg and St James, but the walkway was too narrow and “not suitable for dog-walking as the temperament of dogs varies and the potential for dog-related incidents is increased in such a confined space”.