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Criminals threaten local tourism industry


At the time of going to print, the emergence of a vicious criminal gang within the Waterval Boven area has already thought to have been responsible for three armed attacks on local tourism-related businesses in less than ten days. Despite the concerted and best efforts of SAPS members from both Waterval Boven and Machadodorp - as well as local residents - the gang remains at large and continues to pose a life-threatening risk to both local residents and visitors alike.
The suspects, thought to be three in number and described as young black males aged between 25-30 and usually wearing balaclavas (according to victims) are armed with knives and at least one 9mm handgun and are considered extremely dangerous. The incidents to date are:

  • Acra Retreat – on the outskirts of Boven itself. At approx. 04h00 on Friday 10-01-14, intruders gained access to the property by cutting through the electrified and razor wire perimeter fence. The criminals, after gaining access to the house, roused the owner from a sound sleep at gunpoint and robbed both him and a number of guests before fleeing the scene. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries and the local security company responded quickly to the scene in response to a ‘panic button’ signal. The SAPS followed quickly and secured the area. Unfortunately, the suspects remained at large following this incident.
  • Zongororo Guest Farm – Waterval Onder. Just before midnight on Tuesday 14-01-14, intruders gained access to the bedroom of farm residents Mr. Roelf Swanepoel and his wife Susan. Mrs. Swanepoel was awakened at gunpoint and told to “be quiet”. Her husband, unfortunately for the attackers, awakened and, without hesitation, attacked the armed intruders. During the ensuing melee. Mr. Swanepoel was shot in the shoulder by one of the attackers who all subsequently fled into the surrounding bush empty handed. The police were immediately summoned to the scene and, despite the participation of a SAPS canine unit, were unsuccessful in apprehending the suspects.
  • Malaga Hotel – Airlie. Just before 01h00 on the morning of Monday 20-01-14, the manager, Mr. Joshua Mogorosi and staff had already gone off-duty and retired to their rooms for the night. In addition to the normal Malaga staff, there were also 16 foreign guests present in the hotel at the time - who had fortunately also already retired to their rooms. Staff were awakened by a woman’s screams as she was attacked by armed intruders demanding to know “who is the manager?” and “where is the owner?” In the ensuing confusion, the room of a second female staff member was broken into by the gang and the woman assaulted in similar attempts to locate the manager. As Mr. Mogorosi had already demonstrated the presence of mind to telephone the police in Waterval Boven, they were already en-route to the scene as the frustrated attackers fired two pistol shots in the air before once again fleeing the scene. Only minor injuries were reported.
  • The SAPS have substantially increased patrols in the area and are taking all possible measures to apprehend the suspects in a bid to prevent further attacks and possible loss of life. Residents of the area have been urged to take all possible precautions to protect themselves and their properties until such time as arrests can be made. Any and all suspicious persons and activity should be reported without delay to nearest SAPS.

    UPDATE!!!

    Since going to print with the February issue of THG, we can subsequently report that, unfortunately, the spate of armed attacks impacting Waterval Boven and the neighbouring Elands Valley continues unabated. In addition to the three incidents reported in one of our February lead stories, it is widely believed that the same armed attackers have subsequently carried out two additional attacks in the area. They are:

    • Tegwaan Farm – on the outskirts of Boven and less than 2 km. from the site of the initial attack at Acra Retreat. Shortly before midnight on the night of Friday 24 January, the same gang (according to eyewitness accounts) attacked and overpowered four elderly residents of the farm and robbed them. No serious injuries were reported and the criminals, once again, quickly disappeared into the night with their haul. The police were quickly summoned and arrived on the scene. Despite a search of the surrounding area, the attackers once again eluded the SAPS and remained at large.
    • Bergwaters Spa & Eco Lodge – Waterval Onder - a stone’s throw from the site of the gang’s second attack (Zongororo Guest Farm 14-01-14). Just after Friday midnight and in the early hours of Saturday 1 February, two separate groups of guests were awakened from sleep in their accommodation by (it is suspected) the same attackers at this well known local hotel. The visitors were threatened and subsequently robbed of cash, jewellery and cellular phones. The gang once again, disappeared into the surrounding thick bush – fortunately without attempting to enter the main buildings of the hotel where proprietor, Mr. Ivan Stouffs, was still awake and working. With the unfortunate but unharmed guests having raised the alarm, the police were quickly summoned but were unable to apprehend any of the attackers.

    What little information available on this dangerous gang and the methods employed in their attacks is this:

    • There are three black, male members of the gang
    • Two are described as young (25-30), medium height and build
    • The third is described as older (30-35), taller, slender and with a beard
    • They are known to arrive and depart quietly and on foot
    • In most attacks to date, at least two of the attackers have worn balaclavas and one has shown his face
    • They are considered violent and dangerous – with at least one member armed with a 9mm handgun – and have already shot one victim and physically assaulted others
    • All but one of the attacks have taken place on weekends. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are the most likely times for the gang to strike – normally just before or just after midnight

    Residents in the affected areas are urged to lock all doors and windows and be vigilant. Any strangers and/or suspicious activity in the affected areas should be reported without delay to the Waterval Boven SAPS.

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