Call for subway to close after attack

A gate on the second subway tunnel prevents people from sleeping in it.

An elderly woman attacked by a vagrant on the Fish Hoek catwalk is calling on the City of Cape Town to have the subway tunnels secured to stop the homeless sleeping there.

While out for a walk with a friend on Saturday October 26, Martha Gibson was punched in the face by a homeless woman sleeping in the subway tunnels.

Ms Gibson was knocked off her feet and her glasses were broken.

Moments before the attack, at 11.20am, Ms Gibson noticed three people coming out of one of the tunnels.

As she passed the tunnel from which they had come, a woman lunged out in front of her and punched her.

“I just felt a sharp pain in the side of my face and didn’t know what had happened,” she said.

The woman, who Ms Gibson suspects was on drugs, ran off.

Ms Gibson said if it weren’t for her friend, Miles McLoughlin, who cushioned her fall, she would have fallen over the railing onto the rocks.

Ms Gibson and Mr McLoughlin then made their way to the Law Enforcement offices on the beachfront, but to their surprise they were closed.

They went to The Galley restaurant where one of the staff called the police.

Two police officers arrived about ten minutes later to take her statement.

She decided not to open a case.

“It’s pointless because she will be arrested and then just released again,” Ms Gibson said.

Ms Gibson is an avid walker and often hikes Elsies Peak.

“It is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” she said.

Although she was not seriously injured, she said the attack had traumatised her as she had just started walking again after being hit by a motorbike on Fish Hoek Main Road 18 months ago.

She sustained five pelvis fractures and spent nine weeks in hospital.

“I basically had to learn how to walk again,” she said.

Ms Gibson said that on the day of her attack on the catwalk she had noticed bedding and clothing drying on the verges. She expressed concern about the homeless being out on the catwalk after 7am – especially with peak season approaching.

“I want to know how can Law Enforcement allow this to happen? Where were they when I needed them? It is unacceptable,” she said.

Mr McLoughlin said it all happened so fast and he was just grateful that he was with her when she was attacked.

“All I could think about was to grab her so that she doesn’t fall over the railing. She is still recovering from the accident, and I didn’t want her to get hurt again,” he said.

Law Enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said officers who would normally have reported for duty on the day of the incident had been selected for random drug testing, which was part of standard operational procedure.

The supervisor for the area, which includes Muizenberg, he said, then reposted two officers to cover the area until the other officers returned from the drug test.

Officers could not patrol alone due to safety reasons so there had not been enough officers to keep the office open, receive complaints and do patrols.

“The officers were in the area but the office was not open until the others returned from the drug test,” he said.

Mayoral committee member for transport Felicity Purchase said the subway gate in question was not locked because mountainside residents used it to reach the beach.

However, she said the City would look at whether it would be feasible to lock it at night.

Residents can report incidents to the Law Enforcement control room by phoning 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone. The control room will then con-
tact officers on the ground for assistance.