Hunter tracks down robber
No more to go on than a footprint in the sand
A TRADITIONAL tracker has become a local hero after he used his skills to help catch a West Coast gang that had unleashed a reign of terror on the quiet town of Yzerfontein.
Carlos Munawgo, 50, helped track down the last member of the five-man gang.
Using nothing but the suspect’s footprints in the sand, Munawgo tracked him for 500m before he was found hiding in a bush.
The drama began early last Friday, when the gang broke into the home of Hennie Richter and his wife Mariet.
Richter was badly beaten and his wife threatened.
The suspects pushed Mariet Richter around the house, ordering her to show them where the couple kept their valuables. They then tied the couple up and made their getaway in a Toyota.
This was the latest in a string of robberies at Yzerfontein, known for its sea views and low crime rate.
Alfie van Litsenborgh, the owner of Yzerfontein Armed Response, said they had had 15 to 20 robberies over the past few weeks, all with the same modus operandi.
Locals were robbed of their valuables, including cellphones, laptops, money and jewellery, while they slept.
But in the Richters’ case the couple had been up late, working, when the robbers struck.
The targets have always been locals, rather than the empty homes of holiday home owners.
Van Litsenborgh said they had suspected a gang was behind the attacks, and the community had been living in fear for the past few weeks.
“People believe this is their town; besides maybe a couple of dogs, they don’t pay much attention to security.
“But when the robberies started, they became very para- noid and flustered.”
Darling police station commissioner Captain Roland Gabriels said that after the attack on the Richters the five men had made off along the R27.
But near Rondeberg farm on the R27, the Toyota was pulled over.
“Marine and Coastal Management, the police, and a few other officials were patrolling for poachers, when they pulled the car over,” said Gabriels.
Four men were arrested, but before the fifth could be apprehended, he bolted over a wire fence and into the bush towards the shore.
Authorities called in a helicopter and a specialised police dog unit to find the suspect, but he evaded the searchers.
They then called on Munawgo, a tracker and field guide at !Khwa ttu, a cultural centre near Darling.
“After a few hours, the helicopter and police dogs gave up,” said Gabriels.
“But two of my officers didn’t give up; they continued to search with the tracker.”
Munawgo told Weekend Argus he began his search at the wire fence by establishing the suspect’s footprint – he was wearing takkies.
The only other footprints in the sand were those of the police officers, all of whom were wearing the same type of boots.
This made it easy to identify the suspect’s print.
Munawgo said he had looked out for the takkie print in sandy patches. On grassy areas, he looked out for broken branches, and the shape the footprints had left behind.
“When we reached some bushes, I thought I heard a noise, like someone moving, but I thought I was imagining it because of the noise from the helicopter.”
One of the police officers fired a warning shot in the air, to no avail.
By this time the trail had gone cold.
They went back to the bush to start the trail from the beginning, but this time, when they returned, they found fresh tracks.
“When we tracked him to the bush, he just came out with his hands up,” said Munawgo.
This is not the first time he has helped track criminals.
A few months ago, he tracked down two men who had stolen solar panels from a farmer whose property neighbours !Khwa ttu.
Munawgo, who was born in Angola, learnt tracking from his father, who used to hunt and gather for their family.
But he had learnt to track people under entirely different circumstances, he said.
He was recruited by the then South African Defence Force as a tracker during the war in Namibia.
Although Munawgo enjoys helping the police, he jokes that he loves tracking animals too much to consider becoming a policeman.
The five suspects appeared in the Malmesbury Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
HOT ON THE TRAIL: Carlos Munawgo, a tour guide at the !Kwa ttu cultural centre, demonstrates how he followed the spoor of a fugitive on the run from the police.