The Wilds no longer a safe spot to climb

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ATTACKED: Dan Widmonte, Keren Gossman, Kate Conradie and Jacobus Uys stand outside the perimeter fence of The Wilds, where they and two friends were mugged last weekend. Picture: Chris Collingridge

CITY Parks is to step up security at The Wilds in Houghton after a group of Wits students who went to climb boulders were mugged there last weekend.

Kate Conradie and five of her friends are still in shock after being threatened with a gun and a knife in the tranquil park.

“We decided to visit the park for an afternoon of climbing fun. We noticed some guys sitting on the park benches, but were not too concerned. As we started climbing, one of them confronted us with a gun. We had a dog with us that started barking loudly and the guy threatened to shoot it. That scared us. Its owner managed to calm the dog down. Another guy then drew a knife and asked us for our belongings,” she said.

The robbers took their bags and shoes and demanded cellphones.

“They demanded the phones, but we told them they were in the car. Fortunately they decided not to get them and left us our keys,” she said.

Conradie said warning signs could be placed at the entrance to The Wilds to warn people and prevent this type of incident happening again.

“I know The Wilds is notorious for this type of thing, but the signs should warn others who do not know,” she said.

She said the climbing club would never go back there.

A few years ago The Wilds became known for muggings, and walking tours were cancelled because of a lack of security.

City Parks spokeswoman Jenny Moodley said she was not aware of the latest incident, but that they would investigate.

“We have full-time security there and Bombela, which has an emergency exit for the Gautrain on the property, also has security, which indirectly benefits park users.

“We will look at putting in signage if necessary. We will also send someone to inspect the fences to see whether they have been damaged or compromised.”

The Wilds was established in 1925 when the township owners of Houghton Estate, the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company Ltd, donated land to the Joburg town council on condition that it be kept as an open space for public recreation.

Since 1936, The Wilds has been beautified with indigenous flora only.

It was declared a national monument in 1981.

Councillor for the area Marcelle Ravid said security at the park was a serious problem and she had reported this to the Hillbrow community policing forum and to the Upper Houghton Residents’ Association.

“There were organised walks in The Wilds, but these were stopped by City Parks,” she said.

“Since then the area has deteriorated badly and it is in need of new fencing.

“City Parks does not seem to be able to manage the park properly.”


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