Crime wave hits

Sihle Vumenjani.

A murder and a spate of muggings have put Hout Bay on high alert ahead of the festive season.

Little more than a week after the release of the annual police crime statistics (“Crime stats mixed bag”, Sentinel, October 27), the village has been rocked by the death of 23-year-old Sihle Vumenjani in Imizamo Yethu on Sunday March 29 as well as numerous brazen attacks on people in the past week.

Mr Vumenjani was stabbed to death in Imizamo Yethu on Sunday night.

Popular by all accounts, he was set to study hotel management and was well respected within the community.

He had strong ties to the Ikhaya le Themba after-school care programme, having been a student there before assisting in an athletics coaching capacity.

Mr Vumenjani’s mother Babalwa and aunt Nontembeko Noqha were in the Eastern Cape attending the funeral of a family member when they learnt of his murder on Monday.

“All we’ve heard is that he was stabbed. We are very, very sad,” Ms Noqha said.

Hout Bay police spokesperson Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch said Mr Vumenjani had fought with another man in Mkhonto Street at about 11pm on Sunday.

“The 23-year-old victim was stabbed with a knife, and was declared dead at the scene by paramedics. A 20-year-old suspect was arrested for the murder,” she said.

His death follows that of another promising Imizamo Yethu youngster, Siyamthanda Betana, 19, who was gunned down amid violent clashes in Imizamo Yethu in July (“Tragedy strikes IY family”, Sentinel, July 28).

A close friend of both men, Sihle Krishe, 18, currently writing his matric exams, was “heartbroken” after losing another friend.

“The painful thing is that when I’m about to write exams, I always lose someone or something bad happens, so I find it difficult to overcome these challenges,” he said.

“But I still ask God for strength. It’s so painful too lose people that you know and that were kind in your life. Death is destroying our friends, mentors, and our loved ones, the people that would uplift this community and transform it into a better place.”

He described Mr Vumenjani as a “good, humble and respectful guy”.

“He loved running a lot. He usually trained with us before a marathon. Sport was his passion.”

Ikhaya le Themba director Susan Hill said Mr Vumenjani had been a “very respected student”.

“He was a great ambassador of hope. The kids really looked up to him. He had such a positive outlook on life.”

Hout Bay police spokesperson Warrant officer Lesch also confirmed that several muggings had been reported in the past week.

On Monday October 31, a 14-year-old boy was mugged in Hangberg after playing soccer with his friends.

The boy’s mother, Simone Shaw, said two men approached him at Marlin Crescent Road, near the community centre.

“One of the men pushed a gun to his chest, and demanded his cellphone and that he empty his pockets. He handed it over, and the men ran away.”

Mrs Shaw and her daughter were themselves victims of crime two weeks ago.

“We often walk down from Harbour Heights to the market. A group of us were walking down, when a guy with a knife came up to me. He said he didn’t want to hurt me, but he demanded my phone. I refused, but then another who was with him turned to my daughter. That was when I handed over my phone.”

All three assailants were known to the Hangberg community, she later discovered, and they also wanted them to be brought to justice.

Two incidents were reported on Sunday October 29 alone.

Resident Natalie Ann Simpson picked up a “very shaken” tourist robbed of her phone by two young men on the Mariner’s Wharf side of the beach, while Candice Kitching was mugged along the Sandy Bay path on her way back towards Llandudno.

“A guy appeared out of the bushes and tried to talk to us. Of course we just started running as fast as we could while he chased us, screaming ‘drop the bag or I’ll have to kill you!’ We dropped the bag and he stopped chasing us. So thankful for our lives. What can be done about this? Is it worth calling the police? It’s so sad that this is becoming so incredibly normal,” she said on Facebook.

On Thursday October 19, visiting British model Sarah MacDonnell and her friends were robbed of £80 000 (R1 485 253) worth of valuables after being tied up by a “machete-wielding gang” while staying at the Maison Noir luxury villa in Hout Bay. The model told the story of her ordeal to the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.

Four employees were also tied up during the incident. Police are investigating.

The crime wave has come unexpectedly early given that the start of the festive season – during which visitors and residents are particularly susceptible to attacks – is still a month away.

Hout Bay Neighourhood Watch (HBNW) operations manager Rod Panagos attributed the crimes to a rising population of unemployed people and regular offenders being released on bail despite having many cases against them.

He said tourists who were not familiar with the area and who walked around with high-value items and hard currency in their pockets stood out as “high-value targets” among criminals.

Of concern was that not all crimes were reported to Hout Bay SAPS. “The loss of items such as jewellery or cellphones is usually insured so these items can be replaced. Many victims don’t want to compound the loss by taking expensive hours out of their work days or holiday to file a case which, if a suspect has actually been arrested, usually requires multiple appearances in court.”

However, he called the non-reporting of crime a “self-defeating process”.

“It skews the real figures towards a lower crime statistic which leads to even less SAPS resources being allocated to Hout Bay. We urge people to report all crime.”