OppiKoppi 2018 'the worst' as scores of revellers get robbed
Pickpocketing, petty theft and other criminal activity have ruined many OppiKoppi revellers' experience this year, with one person reportedly having his whole tent stolen.
OppiKoppi is an annual music festival, with the most recent held just outside Northam in Limpopo this past weekend.
Comments on the festival's official Facebook page have been streaming in with people reporting theft of a range of items, from cooler boxes and camping chairs to cellphones and other valuables.
"It's been taken over by pickpockets and criminals. I've been to 15 OppiKoppi festivals. And sad to say it's all over now," Francois Mostert wrote.
'An entire tent, guys...'
"I personally know a dude who had his whole tent taken. An entire tent, guys," wrote Letlhogonolo Tshidiso Moletsane.
Fernando de Pinho wrote: "Got my things stolen from my tent while I was sleeping in it… worst experience ever."
Stefany Seymore, 22, from Potchefstroom, told News24 that she and her friends were robbed on several occasions.
"On Thursday afternoon I found my bag of clothes had been emptied but nothing was taken.
"But on Friday morning I found that cellphones had been taken from my car, my wallet had been emptied, my sunglasses were gone… they even took my pepper spray and snacks."
Seymore and her party then discovered that their cooler boxes containing meat and all their liquor had also disappeared.
"All the people camping around us were looking for their cellphones and other property. It was ridiculous. Many people had things stolen from their tents and cars. Watches, money, cellphones, everything [of value]. We were literally ransacked."
Seymore says fellow attendees alerted them to a campsite where they had found their stolen property. Here Seymore and her friends found some of their liquor and their cooler boxes.
"Five bottles of liquor were empty. Our meat was gone."
Suspect 'was released'
Seymore and her party confronted a man on Saturday night who was wearing a watch that had been stolen from one of them. The man tried to run away but was tackled to the ground and apprehended.
"We found five cellphones in his rucksack and handed him over to security officials."
But on Sunday morning, the suspect had been released and was sitting at the very campsite where the stolen goods had been found earlier, according to Seymore.
Christo de Beer, 36, from Pretoria, who was attending the festival for the eighth time, told News24 that incidents of crime at this year's festival were the worst he'd experienced.
"I was almost pickpocketed on two occasions, once right in front of a policeman. Our camping chairs, cooler boxes, and food were stolen. Many of my friends also had stuff stolen from them or had been pickpocketed."
De Beer said many people's cars had been broken into.
At one point De Beer and others apprehended two suspects in possession of stolen goods and tried to hand them over to police, but the officials "drove off".
While De Beer believes festival organisers took pains to ensure sufficient security measures, "it just didn't work".
"But the most important thing stolen, for me, is the peace and relaxation I used to enjoy at OppiKoppi," De Beer said.
'This year was the worst'
According to Theresho Selesho, CEO of Matchbox Live, which organises OppiKoppi among other events, there has been an increase in criminal activity at its festivals over the last three years.
"We've had some crime issues in the past, but this year was the worst," Selesho told News24 on Tuesday.
"There are a few syndicates that have been targeting live events and festivals. These past few years have been crazy for us in terms of containing the criminal activity, especially at a tented camping event [such as OppiKoppi].
"We've put safety measures in place, we've been working with the SAPS, we had undercover security guards and canines to try to combat these crimes." But despite employing more resources and a bigger security budget, "the crime increased as well", said Selesho.
According to Selesho, the nature of a festival such as OppiKoppi, where nearly 9 000 people camp in tents in the open bush for three days, makes it difficult to police. Selesho confirmed that various crimes had been reported "under the umbrella of theft". No violent crime had been reported.
"Security is a focal point for the future of the festival. We don't want people to have experiences like this.
"This is disheartening for us."
Northam police would not comment on whether any arrests had been made at OppiKoppi.