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Pretoria - Cyclists in the east of Pretoria say they are under threat from trigger-happy bicycle robbers following a spate of incidents in which one of them was shot in the arm, while another is lucky to be alive after a bullet hit his helmet and missed his head by a few millimetres.
What shocked the cyclists spoken to most was that many of the incidents occurred in heavy traffic but motorists looked on without helping.
Speaking to the Pretoria News on Tuesday, three cyclists from different parts of Pretoria east, had one thing in common.
They all spoke about a stretch of Garstfontein Road between Matt Street and De Villebois Mareuil Road where they all had near death experiences in the past week when they were shot at.
“I held my hand in front of my face and said ‘no no no please don’t shoot’, but all I saw was a flash from the gun that was being held to my face,” said Michael McDermott, who was shot on Monday afternoon.
McDermott was cycling on Garstfontein Road when he noticed two men at the side of the road.
“As I approached them, I knew something was coming my way. I swerved out to go around one of the men but as I reached him he pulled out a gun and shot me in my arm. I fell to the ground and he was above me with the gun in my face.”
According to McDermott, a numbers of cars went past, but no one assisted until he ran into the middle of the road and was then helped by a woman who stopped her vehicle.
“At that moment my life flashed before my eyes. I thought I was going to die,” he said.
On Thursday last week, Mannie Naude and Daniel Newman were also shot at by two suspects in separate incidents.
Newman and a partner were cycling at the same spot as McDermott at about 6.30pm on Thursday, when they noticed two men at the Matt Street corner.
“I saw one of them take something out from his pocket and immediately knew something was wrong.
“Both my partner and I started pedalling as fast as we could and went more into the road to get away from them. About five or so metres on, we heard two gunshots, but didn’t look back, we just kept on going until we got to the centre and turned in at McDonald’s.”
It was only two days later that Newman realised how close his encounter with death was.
“On Saturday I was about to go out riding again. When I picked up my helmet I saw the bullet hole. It went in at the back and out the other side and literally missed my head by millimetres. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was that the bullet didn’t even graze me.
“Back then I didn’t feel anything. My whole body was in complete shock when I saw those guys. I’m just glad I managed to get away unharmed but someone else might not be so lucky,” Newman said.
Earlier that Thursday morning, at about 4.45, Naude cycled down Matt Street from his townhouse complex into Garstfontein Road, where he too was confronted by two men.
“I was coming down the hill and saw them coming up from behind a heap of sand. One of them took the gun out of his pocket and pointed it at me as I approached them. I don’t know how I managed to get away from them but I just picked up speed and continued cycling. Then I heard two shots go off, but kept on pressing.
“I could hear one of them running close behind me but didn’t turn to look back.
“When I reached the robot at the bottom of the hill, I turned back and could see the guy in the middle of the road making hand signals at me,” Naude said.
All three men say the two culprits had a clear shoot-to-kill attitude.
According to reports on cycling website The Hubb, about five incidents involving attacks on cyclists have been reported.
Petro Kruger, mother of a 15-year old cyclist, said after hearing of the incidents in recent weeks she would not allow her son to cycle in that area and was rather looking into indoor and secure track facilities.
Another report indicated that a cyclist was stabbed several times last week.
Other reports of cyclists being attacked at Fountains Circle and in Irene have also emerged.
Cyclists in the east of the city are now calling on police and the municipality to act as a matter of urgency.
But police said they had become aware of the attacks through the media, as only one case (McDermott) had been reported this year at the Garsfontein police station.
Police spokesman Dave Miller pleaded with victims to report the incidents. “We are aware of the smash and grab problem in the area, but not about cyclists being attacked,” Miller said.
“Special operations are being conducted in that area and since this information has come to light, we will definitely target the problem.
“At the end of the day, we want our whole community to be safe, so we will definitely act on this,” he said.
Newman said the squatters in Plastic View informal settlement contributed to the prevalence of crime.
“We know they are not going anywhere anytime soon, but the municipality and the police must act. They can put up lights and monitoring cameras,” he said.