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Cape Town - Police responding to a theft from a tourist’s vehicle on Chapman’s Peak Drive were turned back at the toll plaza because they did not have the R36 fee.
An Iranian family had bags containing R20 000 in cash taken from their vehicle.
Three hours after the theft, the tour guide travelling with the family went to the toll plaza and paid the police officers’ toll himself.
The officers apparently told the group that Chapman’s Peak Drive was outside of their jurisdiction, because it was a “private” road.
Faezeh Raissi, who is on holiday in South Africa with family and friends from Iran, told the Cape Argus: “It was a joke. I asked them, ‘so what if I had been killed?’ The officer just shrugged and laughed.”
“We’re still shocked, we haven’t been able to eat. This is sad for the people of Cape Town, because we cannot take a good story back to our home country.”
The road is, in fact, a public one, and police have the right to use the road on production of a voucher issued by the police.
The drama for the Raissi family began on Sunday when they and their guide, Alahuddiyn Ahmed, parked near the lookout at the top of the drive to take pictures.
When they returned to the car 10 minutes later the bags were gone. Ahmed maintains the car had been locked, but there was no sign of forced entry.
One of the bags, belonging to Faezeh’s sister, Zahra, contained about R20 000 in cash. A witness reported that she saw a man carrying two bags jump over a barrier at the parking lot into the bushes below.
Ahmed rallied other tour operators to set up a perimeter around where the theft had occurred, and called 10111 for assistance. Over the next two-and-a-half hours he apparently made six follow-up calls to Hout Bay police and 10111.
“The receptionist at Hout Bay told me that I must wait my turn, that there was only one vehicle on duty for the precinct and that tourists must not expect to get special treatment,” said Ahmed.
“After nearly three hours, we went down to the toll gates to investigate. They told us that the police had come and left, because they did not have the money to pay the toll. I am convinced we had that crook pinned down on the hillside, but the police’s failure to arrive meant that he could eventually get away.”
Presented with these details, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said he would query the exisiting protocols when he had his weekly meeting with provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer on Tuesday.
Tourism MEC Alan Winde said the provincial government did have an agreement to allow emergency vehicles access to Chapman’s Peak.
Mark Jacobs, general manager of Entilini Operations, which manages the toll road, said police were allowed free access to Chapman’s Peak provided they had a pre-printed voucher, adding that in serious emergencies even the voucher would not be strictly necessary.
Jacobs could not explain the apparent misunderstanding between toll gate staff and police.
The staff on duty on Sunday were off on Monday and could not be reached, he said.
Police spokeswoman Constable Phindiswa Gcume confirmed a case of theft had been opened at Hout Bay police station.
There have been no arrests.