Russian tourists robbed of expensive kayaks in Mthatha

The trailer and international brand kayaks stolen in a mall parking lot in Mthatha on Tuesday afternoon.
STOLEN The trailer and international brand kayaks stolen in a mall parking lot in Mthatha on Tuesday afternoon.

A group of Russian adventure sport tourists had their expensive kayaks and trailer stolen from Mthatha's  BT Ngebs City mall on Wednesday.

Their spokesperson and South African friend, riverman Shane Raw, 46, who has been directing them to whitewater rivers in SA, said the eight young Russian paddlers in their 20s had taken on some of the fiercest rapids in Southern Africa, but nobody warned them of the dangers of a Mthatha parking lot.

He said the group had just come off a flooding Eastern Cape river, where one of their group had become trapped at the base of a 12m waterfall.

They had driven into Mthatha, parked their vehicle and trailer loaded with R100,000 worth of word-class kayaks and went into the mall soon after 3pm.

When they returned, their kayaks and the trailer owned by their hired taxi operator in Mpumalanga was gone.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci said police a case of theft was being investigated. “Leads are being followed. No arrests have been made.”

She asked the public to call investigator Colonel Thaynne Petzer on 082-410-7515 or Madeira SAPS 047-531-0305.

Petzer said they were looking for a Black Fortuner which hooked up the trailer and towed it to Vulindlela Heights.

Raw said he also received a flurry of helpful calls from security firms after he went online and asked the public to be on the lookout for the trailer with its colourful and conspicuous load of unusual water craft.

It was shared 2,000 times on Facebook. Among the stolen kayaks were a red Jackson Nirvana kayak, a red Waka Gangsta, a turquoise, red and white Dagger Phantom and a lime green Zet Cross.

“These kayaks are pretty distinctive as they are not sold in this country,” Raw posted.

He even got a call from anonymous informant offering vital information for a  fee of R750, but Raw said the caller's tally of missing kayaks did not add up.

It was possible the caller simply counted the number of kayaks depicted in a photograph Raw had posted. But Raw had not included all the kayaks on the trailer in the picture.

Security firms were checking their cameras by midday on Wednesday.

Raw said the Russian kayakers had spent the night in Port St Johns and had decided to head for Durban and fly home on Thursday.

The tourists were disappointed. “One guy even said he was depressed about it. It leaves such a bad taste,” said Raw.

“They are in SA to enjoy paddling on our great rivers. They had just come off Tsitsa river in the area. It had been a difficult river as it was full. There was drama. One guy got ejected from his kayak as he took a 12m waterfall. He was pinned behind the falls and had to walk out.”

He said the trailer had been not chained to the vehicle as they did not expect this would be necessary. “Next thing it was gone,” he said.

The group arrived in early January and paddled in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands and down the Zambezi. They had been in SA for a week when their kayaks were heisted.

In September 2018 thieves posing as Eastern Cape  tourism officials brazenly flagged down an Australian couple on the N2 near Mthatha, diverted them to an ATM and fleeced them of R96,000.

Australian tourist, Victoria firefighter Mark Hunter, 59, and Pauline Hunter, 52, who worked in Deakin University's IT department, said: “We leave SA on Thursday. I won’t be coming back to the Transkei, I can tell you that.”

Police at the time said  a German tourist couple was also robbed.

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