CEMETERY TO REOPEN

Knysna Municipality is delighted to announce that it has successfully, and by mutual agreement, resolved the property dispute around the Sedgefield Cemetery. Knysna Executive Mayor, Mark Willemse commended the Legal Services department and Ward 1 Councillor Levael Davis for their pursuit and determination to settle this matter.
Willemse explained that the journey the municipality went through in order to retain the land was a difficult process. “The cemetery was closed in November 2016 as a result of a High Court Order obtained by New Line Investments (Pty) Ltd, Avieprop Developments (Pty) Ltd and Aviemore Home Owners Association. In July 2017, Council resolved to seek a declaratory order from the High Court confirming ownership of the piece of land.
“I am happy that this matter has been resolved. Sedgefield residents will soon be able to utilise the burial ground on the land,” Willemse concluded.
Davis said this is a victory for Sedgefield’s residents. “I want to thank the dedicated municipal officials for handling this matter and for bearing with my persistence. Sedgefield residents will benefit hugely, saving on funerals costs and no longer needing to transport their deceased loved ones to other areas. It will most certainly also ease the healing process.”
The municipality will inform residents once everything has been finalised and new burials may commence

STRANDLOPER EXPEDITION SETS OFF

For the past six months, a team of six marine warriors have been planning the Strandloper Project coastal expedition and are finally set to start off on their ten-day hike on Wednesday 15 May.
The concept grew out of a concern for the threat of ghost fishing by snagged recreational fishing tackle posed at Gericke’s Point, west of Sedgefield. Ghost fishing is the indiscriminate capture and killing of fish and marine life by lost fishing gear. Most commonly studies are done for industrial fishing which show that ghost fishing has a devastating impact on marine life.
“When we started cleaning up fishing debris at Gericke’s Point we had no idea that we would find evidence of ghost fishing caused by lost recreational fishing tackle”, said Mark Dixon, Strandloper project leader, “but we did and recorded no less than five species killed by this means”.
Interested in finding out the extent of the threat posed by lost fishing gear in the Garden Route a simple proposal to hike the coastline for 10 days and survey various fishing sites was made. In the past six months the hike has evolved into an expedition in which the team will survey fishing sites and plastic pollution along the way.
The first challenge in planning the expedition was deciding on which section of coastline to survey. With such rich archaeological history of Strandlopers in the Garden Route, dating back for the past 164,000 years and, the profusion of fossil trackways, they chose to hike from Blombos Nature Reserve (the site of the oldest artwork attributed to modern Homo sapiens – dated at approximately 73,000 years old) to Wilderness.
While the hike of 175km will be difficult on its own, most of the route is along the boundaries of private properties and nature reserves. Team member Chris Leggatt has worked tirelessly to secure permissions to cross these properties. This in itself has transformed the nature of the hike. “What was originally going to be a camping hike has morphed into a hike with accommodation along the way as supportive landowners and interested people have offered us their homes and venues for our team to sleep over every night,” said Dixon.
Pivotal to the expedition is the accurate recording of data. Dr Louw Classens from the Knysna Basin Project has designed their sampling methodology and Mark Dixon has developed an app using CyberTracker to capture, map and record GPS positions of each item accurately.
On the 14th May the team of six conservationists will meet and drive to Stilbaai with a drop off at Blombos the following day to start the hike. They will finish around mid-morning on the 25th May at the Touw River mouth and invite the public to join them from Leentjies Klip for the final section into Wilderness.
Their expedition can be followed on their Facebook page (Strandloper Project), Instagram (@strandloperproject) and Twitter (@Strandloperp) where they will be posting daily updates of their progress.

KELLY’S TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN

Tuesday 30 April saw the resumption of Sean Kelly’s murder trial at Knysna Magistrates’ Court. This after the case against him was postponed on 29 March. Once again, he only stood before the judge for a few minutes before the case was postponed – this time to 16 May.
Kelly (50) is charged with the murder of Sedgefield resident Noreen Hampson on 2 February this year. He later admitted to this crime at his bail hearing though he claimed then that his actions were not pre-meditated.
Kelly was brought into the dock a few minutes after 10am, and the judge asked if he was still conducting his own defense, which the accused man confirmed he was. After brief input from the state prosecutor, the judge announced that the case would be postponed, asking Kelly if this was an acceptable course of action. Kelly said it was fine with him, then asked if he could make a statement. The Judge agreed and Kelly went on to tell the court that he had had consultation with a psychiatrist in George – Dr Swanepoel from George Correctional services – who had recommended that he go to Valkenberg, the State’s psychiatric hospital, for mental evaluation.
The judge then asked Kelly to give details of the psychiatrist who had examined him to the prosecution in order that this matter be given further consideration. He then officially declared the matter postponed until 16 May.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of Kelly’s house on Marigold Street being broken into and ransacked on a number of occasions, so the Neighbourhood Watch Groups and SAPS will be monitoring the property closely.

SEDGEFIELD’S (IN)FAMOUS CANNABIS SHOP TO RE-OPEN

Co-Owner of the Sedgefield ‘CanaPax’ shop – a franchise cannabis outlet which made headlines on Easter Saturday after it was shut down during a police raid – says that the shop’s paperwork is now in order, and that they will soon be open for business again.

With Cannabis being such a burning topic, national and regional newsdesks were all abuzz with the story of the unexpected activity at Sedgefield’s Plum Tree Trading Post Centre. This after members attached to the Outeniqua K-9( Dog Unit) swooped in on the newly opened Canapax shop, only two hours after it had opened its doors for the first day of trade.

According to SAPS spokesperson Captain Malcolm Poje, the members were reacting as a result of information received. In the ensuing search, they found and confiscated a substantial amount of merchandise containing various forms of cannabis packaged in the shop.
“The merchandise included Cannabis oils, sweets, cookies and rusks, white widow, wedding cake, crossed with Gelato33, and Gorilla cookies, all of these containing Cannabis,” he said, adding that police had also confiscated an undisclosed amount of cash.
The value of the confiscated merchandise is estimated at about eighty thousand Rand.

Poje said that a 31-year-old suspect from Wilderness was arrested on the spot but was later released on a warning to appear in court in August. He explained that the delay is so that the content of the confiscated goods can be determined by laboratory testing before the case is heard. The suspect, whose name cannot be released by SAPS, will be facing a charge of Illegal dealing in Drugs (Cannabis).
“Efforts to eradicate the illegal distribution of drugs which are believed to be major crime contributors, remains a priority for the Western Cape Police, despite recent changes to legislation that has legalised the private cultivation and consumption of Dagga.

However, The selling or dealing in prohibited drugs remains an offense that needs to be policed,” says Poje.

The CanaPax shop is part of a franchise group of over 40 Medical Cannabis Dispensaries which operate in various parts of South Africa. It is co-owned by two brothers (name withheld at their request) one of whom also owns the Wilderness branch. In a telephone interview, he said that since the raid their businesses have both received official registration from the Traditional Healers Association, so they will be up and trading again within a week or two.
“We are not criminals and we are not hiding anything,” he told us, “We are distributors of Cannabis for medicinal use.”

(Picture source finfeed.com)

KNYSNA MUNICIPAL MANAGER TO RECONNECT WITH SEDGEFIELD

Knysna Municipal Manager, Dr Sitembele Vatala is extremely concerned that there is a perception by some Sedgefield residents that Sedgefield is somehow less important to the Knysna Municipality than the rest of Greater Knysna.

“Since taking office it has concerned me that there is a perception that we don’t care as much about Sedgefield as we do about the rest of Greater Knysna,” said Dr Vatala. “I want to categorically state this is definitely not the truth, and to show my commitment to this beautiful coastal village I will be residing there for a few months,” he added.

To underline his commitment, the Municipal Manager assures Sedgefield residents that he will be taking a personal interest in the several projects that are due to commence before the end of this financial year (July 2019).

“Seeing as Sedgefield is currently my home, I will be keeping a keen eye on Phase 2A of the upgrade to the bulk sewer infrastructure as well as the upgrading of the Sedgefield Town Hall,” he said. “The officials assured me that projects such as the provision of new speed humps and the walkway between Raven Street and Myoli Beach are on track.”

Dr Vatala lauded the community spirit for which Sedgefield has become synonymous with. “The recently held Slow Festival showed the big-heartedness of the residents. It was heart-warming and encouraging to see a village pull together for the greater good of its economy.

“Sedgefield is so diverse and has so much to offer. I am sure that the residents took cognisance of our commitment to the town in our new billboard that is drawing attention to the beauty of Sedgefield. Currently, it exhibits the many beautiful beaches that hug the coastline, and I am told that this billboard’s picture will soon change to showcase another aspect of Sensational Sedgefield, ensuring the continued attention of the passers-by.”

In conclusion, Dr Vatala acknowledged that feeling excluded could lead to a reduced sense of general belonging and that social belonging is a fundamental psychological need. “I would never want any resident in Greater Knysna to feel excluded, and want to reiterate that nobody here in Greater Knysna is or will ever be abandoned and nobody in Sedgefield is or will ever be excluded. Greater Knysna will only succeed if we all work together.

“And therefore I invite the Sedgefield Ratepayers and Voters Association to approach my office with a written submission on items that are of concern and I endeavour to amicably resolve any issue brought to my attention.

I also want to encourage our residents to attend public meetings during which they can engage with our officials and Councillors to get a better understanding of Local Government and have their concerns heard. Greater Knysna prides itself on being Inclusive, Innovative and Inspired, so please reach out when you need an issue addressed.”

Residents are welcome to write to the Municipal Manager with their suggestions, ideas and inputs to tips@knysna.gov.za

 

MOURNING FAMILY SEEKS CLOSURE

There has been a desperate appeal for witnesses to what is thought to have been a road-rage related hit-and-run incident on 23 March, in which 28-year-old Alan Smit lost his life.
The doting husband and father of two young children died as the result of his serious injuries after being knocked over by a vehicle, which then sped off.
The incident occurred in the evening, sometime between eight and a few minutes after nine. According to the victim’s sister, Jamie, Alan was driving his Land Rover Defender on the N2 between Sedgefield and Knysna, with a friend in the passenger seat. The friend, she said, is still traumatised by the events that followed, and has asked that his name be kept out of the paper. He has, however, relayed information about the tragedy to her and the rest of Alan’s family.
He said that as they went along the N2, a vehicle approached them from behind, driving very close to their bumper flashing its headlights. Though the highway was busy, the vehicle tried to force its way past them several times, but the bends in the road and low visibility made it dangerous for Alan to pull over and let him overtake.
Just after going down Kuitersnek (the hill going towards the White Bridge), the same vehicle, a small bakkie, went past, but then braked suddenly as it pulled into the lane in front of them. They too had to slam on brakes, and both vehicles came to a grinding halt a few metres apart.
The driver of the bakkie got out of his vehicle, as did Alan and his friend. But when they walked towards the driver, he climbed back into the bakkie and started the engine. It was then that the bakkie, with its door still open, came hurtling towards them in reverse.
The friend watched in horror as the bakkie careered into Alan, knocking him flat onto the tar, before speeding off away from the scene. All he could do was rush to Alan’s side to try and help him. He had to pull the badly injured man’s body off the busy road as he feared he might suffer further injury from other vehicles.
Alan was eventually taken to Knysna Hospital by ambulance. Sadly, he never recovered consciousness and succumbed to his injuries the following day.
His family is understandably devastated, and hoping that the perpetrator of this hit-and-run is found and brought to justice. His siblings and parents in Jo’burg cannot believe that he died so young and in such a senseless way. They say he relocated to the Garden Route only a year ago to provide a better life for his family.
Jamie says they are totally frustrated by conflicting reports from the police as to what is happening with the case. The family was, at one stage, told that the offending vehicle had been found, but then they were later informed that no arrests had been made as it would take three months to match the forensics.
“We want closure,” she said, “And we would hate for another family to have to go through this.”
She and Alan’s wife, Ashleigh, now a single mother of a four-year-old daughter and nine-month-old son, have put out appeals on social media, hoping for witnesses to come forward with any information that might help with the investigation and thus speed up the process so that the perpetrator can be brought to book. Such witnesses may reach Jamie Smit on cell 082 926 8713 or her email address jamiesmit042@gmail.com, or inform Knysna Police Station.
SAPS were contacted regarding the case, but at time of going to press, no further details had been provided by their media offices.

IT’S SLOW FESTIVAL TIME

Yes Sedgefarians, it is time to once again celebrate the Easter Weekend in our own very special, and very ORANGE way.
The Slow Festival way.
It skipped a year, but now it’s back, and we surely hope it will do justice to the fantastic Slow Festivals we’ve enjoyed before.
And with most of the organising (and stressing!) having been done in advance, it’s over to all of us – locals and visitors alike – to take the festival by its orange horns and enjoy it to the full!
Whether you take part as a spectator (dressed in your best orange garb of course) or an active participant in one of the wonderful events on the program (see full list on page 6 of this issue), you’ll be playing your role in creating a memory-filled long-weekend for one and all.
From ‘The Way of the Cross’, which shares the true meaning of Easter, to the Sandcastle building competition, to the ‘Big Palooza’ music event, there truly is something for everyone.
And please – don’t forget to send your best Sedgefield Slow Festival pictures to info@edgenews.co.za.

GET YOUR ORANGE ON FOR SEDGEFIELD SLOW FESTIVAL

With just over two weeks to go before the 2019 Sedgefield Slow Festival kicks off, there is once again an appeal for the local businesses, and indeed townsfolk, to get into ‘orange gear’! There’s nothing that catalyses the famous Sedgefield Slow Festival spirit more than the town bedecked in orange as the count-down to the Easter weekend begins.
As everyone will no doubt have guessed, there has been much organising and reorganising and chopping and changing and changing back of the festival program being done behind the scenes as the 2019 festival committee finalises the events.
But now it’s time for the whole town to get behind its festival, and come to the orange party.
As in previous festivals, The EDGE will be running the ‘Get Orange’ competition, offering big advertising prizes for the best decorated businesses. The secret panel of judges will be looking for innovative themes, touches of the bizarre, and basically general orangeness of each business front.
It goes without saying that even those who don’t win will benefit in making the town that much more attractive – in an off the wall kind of way – to visitors and locals.
A further appeal is being put out for local residents to start getting into ‘orange mode’ too. Be it a t-shirt, a hat, a scarf or a car decoration… Perhaps even a lick of orange paint on the front gate? Start wearing it, sporting it, painting it, dying it from now, because the more orange Sedgefield gets, the more the Slow Festival excitement will build.

A WATERSHED MOMENT – FOR SEDGEFIELD

On Thursday 21 March Sedgefield rocked indeed when the hugely popular musicians of ‘Watershed’ took to the stage in the ‘Octopus Garden’ at Scarab Village.
Dubbed as South Africa’s Top Acoustic Rock Band, Watershed’s four musicians were in the Cape promoting their latest album Harbour and, after striking a deal with Masithandane to perform as a fundraiser for the NPO, made Sedgefield one of their stops along the way.
The group wowed the local audience as lead vocalist Craig Hinds, along with band members Howie Combrink, Gideon Botes and Paul McIver, skilfully belted out their latest hits, including Mountainside, Shoulder to Cry On, and I’ll See You Again. This, intermingled with a grand selection of their older numbers, had locals on their feet singing along, clapping and dancing.
Watershed has had a stream of hits since 2000 when their debut album In the Meantime, which included hit single Indigo Girl, took the country by storm. Since then they have rocked homes, radio waves and dance floors nationally and internationally with other hits including the ever-popular Watch the Rain and The River Song.
Masithandane would like to thank all the locals and ‘not so local’
visitors for coming out so enthusiastically to support the NPO’s fundraiser with Watershed.
“From all the wonderful feedback received it was a great success. Not only was it a beautiful evening with fabulous music, but the event raised R11 515 for the Hug Care and Respite Centre,” said Board Chairperson Jacky Weaver.
“We also very much appreciated the sponsorship in-kind received from local businesses, providing the marketing, accommodation, hospitality and set up for the event.
“Our thanks go to Andre Knoetze and Jean Wright, Scarab Village; Juan Olivier and Greg Pitsillides of Sedgefield Radio; Jurgens and Karen van der Walt of Sedgefield Info Centre; Cathy Birkett for Sedge Accommodation; Rob Morrison of ENGEN One Stop, Isabel Petzer of Sedgefield Arms and Bomber Webb of The EDGE Newspaper.
“The best news yet is that Watershed also enjoyed themselves and would like to come back soon!”

DIALOGUE AT LAST

It is hoped that the meeting of Thursday 14 March, where Smutsville community leaders, Mayor Mark Willemse and other councillors finally sat around the table to hammer out their differences, will have a long-lasting, positive effect on returning Sedgefield to a peaceful state.
This after another housing demonstration had erupted into a riot, with the community citing that no meaningful progress had been made by local government on the issue of land in Smutsville. 39 people were arrested and taken into custody, and police are investigating a case in which a Groenvlei resident is alleged to have shot a Smutsville resident.
Clashes between residents of Smutsville, SAPS, Public Order Police Service (POPS) and even some residents of Groenvlei continued for almost 24 hours before consultation between the Knysna Mayor and community leaders finally resulted in a peaceful resolution.
This demonstration began on Wednesday evening, when a public meeting held at Smutsville Community Hall turned to chaos, with the hall emptying during a mass walkout almost an hour after the meeting had begun.
The purpose of the meeting was for Mayor Mark Willemse and other Council officials to give feedback on the issue of the shortage of land and housing in Smutsville. This after the seven-day limit given to them during a demonstration on 2 March, which in turn was a ‘follow on’ to the demonstrations in June last year.
With the hall jam-packed with local residents, not only from Smutsville but also other parts of Sedgefield, including committee members from the Sedgefield Ratepayers & Residents Association, there were many who couldn’t even get in.
When the Mayor, Ward Councillor Davis and Human Settlements Manager Mawethu Penxa began with a preamble as to how the housing process works, the community members began voicing their opinions that it was just more of the same stuff that they had been hearing since last year. Soon it was difficult for speakers to be heard above the noise – and some loudly voiced challenges from one or two Smutsville community leaders were all it took to rally the crowd and turn the meeting onto its head.
But whilst the mass walkout had surely already spoken volumes to the team at the ‘top table’, things got even uglier in the next few minutes.
The Mayor and Councillors Wasserman and Davis had stayed a while after the walkout, to try and answer a barrage of questions asked by some who had not left. But when they stepped outside just a few minutes later it was discovered that three tyres on Councillor Davis’ vehicle had been slashed. Furthermore, a fire was burning in the road blocking the exit from the community hall car park. The blaze was dangerously close to the Mayor’s car, and it was only after some careful manoeuvring that he could drive it safely away. Such was the mood of the crowd that Councillor Davis drove his vehicle away on the three flat tyres.
This seemed to set the tone for the night, and there was no doubt that a resurgence of last year’s riots was on the cards. Fires were lit in the middle of many of Smutsville’s roads and units of the SAPS Public Order Policing were called in to try and contain any unlawful behaviour. Clashes happened throughout the night and into the next morning. Residents of Groenvlei – particularly those on Begonia Street, watched in trepidation as fires were lit on top of the dune and burning tyres sent rolling down to the houses below.
Groups of youths gathered on the hilltop, hurling insults and threats and whatever they could physically throw at the houses below.
During the course of Thursday morning the riot flared up several times, with POPS members determined to keep it under control, and at least some rioters equally determined to create more chaos.
Then at around mid-afternoon, a group of community leaders decided to try a different tactic and called on the Smutsville residents to join a peaceful mass march into Sedgefield village. From eyewitness accounts the huge group stayed tight as it moved along the suburban roads, singing and chanting, and behaving peacefully. A Law Enforcement van drove slowly behind them.
The group moved onto the N2 at the traffic lights and stopped so that both directions of traffic on the National highway was blocked.
After spending some time at that intersection the protesters regrouped once again and walked down the dual carriageway to the Egret Road intersection, still blocking both eastbound and westbound lanes.
They were met there by a contingent of members from SAPS Knysna. Via loud hailers mounted on one of the vehicles the singing crowd was informed by Head of Visible Policing Colonel Gogwana that the highway would be opened, no matter what it took.
“Please get the women and children off the road,” he added.
Community representatives Bongani Dyani and Thersius Jones, along with several others stepped forward to challenge the Colonel, and a heated debate ensued. The protest leaders stated that they would not leave the N2 unless a meeting with the Mayor happened first. Meanwhile, the rest of the protesting throng sat down on the tar – determined not to be moved.
One of the SAPS members called Mayor Willemse on his cell phone. At first the Mayor was not at all keen to come to Sedgefield after the debacle of the previous night’s meeting, but eventually, it was arranged that he would meet with a small group of representatives, who could then report back to the community.
Further negotiations with the police then ensued, and the demonstrators eventually agreed to make their way on the left side of the highway to the taxi rank where they would await feedback from the community leaders. This meant that the police could at least open the Knysna-bound side.
Once again the protesters formed a tight throng and moved as a solid group, this time only using the left side of the dual carriageway.
Then it seemed that all hell broke loose. The booms of stun grenades and the crack of rifles shooting rubber bullets and launching tear gas canisters suddenly erupted and the orderly group shattered. Panicking people fled in all directions.
It is believed that this could only have been the result of bad timing. A POPS unit coming from the George side had come face to face with the marching crowd and, seemingly unaware of the agreement just made with the SAPS Knysna members, opened fire with whatever it took to quash a potential riot.
Water canons shot powerful jets of blue dye as the people ran, and POPS members chased them on foot, arresting those they caught.
Village residents living near the N2 darted into their homes, quaking at the commotion going on around them.
Meanwhile, up on the dune a different sort of terror was unfolding. A crowd of Smutsville residents had been standing on the top, watching the commotion on the N2. Among them was a thirty five-year-old carpenter Mervyn Stuurman and his girlfriend Rene Mars. Rene explained later that Mervyn had finished work early after injuring his finger, and, after being dropped at U-Save by his boss, had come to find his girlfriend to get the keys for the house they shared.
But as they stood there, looking down, a rifle shot suddenly rang out and a bullet thudded into the earth at their feet.
Everyone hit the ground in fear, wondering what was going on as there weren’t any police in sight. Moments later they stood up, gingerly.
“As soon as we got up we heard another rifle shot and dropped down again,” Rene told us. But this time Mervyn was crying in pain.
“When he lifted up his shirt we saw the blood,” she said, “He had been hit in the stomach.”
Weakened by his wound, Stuurman had to be carried down the hill, back into Smutsville, and then transported to the U-Save car park where he was fetched by an ambulance. He is still recovering in George Provincial Hospital, but reportedly no longer in the ICU.
It was later reported that a Groenvlei resident had aimed his firearm up the side of the dune and shot at the crowd. SAPS have confirmed that an attempted murder docket has been opened to investigate this incident.
That evening, in the old Sedgefield Council Chambers, a heated meeting took place, with several community leaders from Smutsville and Sedgefield facing off against Mayor Willemse, Councillor Michelle Wasserman who heads up the Planning and Integrated Human Settlements Portfolio, and Ward 1 Councillor Davis.
Arguments slewed back and forth for some time, but it soon became evident that both parties were at least beginning to listen to one another, and a degree of understanding slowly started rising to the surface.
Rodney Nay, who has been working alongside the Smutsville community through the ‘One Sedgefield’ movement, was also present at the meeting. “Finally it seemed that the anger was dissipating and a structured approach to the situation was being put on the table,” he said later.
This included the Municipality’s response to the four points that the Smutsville community needed to be addressed:- The availability of land for self-build homes, the program timeline for provision of formal housing, the long-term vision for human settlements, and the provision of basic services.
These topics were each covered, and a timeline for the construction of 220 subsidised homes presented, with construction starting within 10 to 12 months. When the meeting ended it seemed that at last the state of intense confrontation had been diffused, and after handshakes all round, the community leaders went back to the streets of Smutsville to give residents the feedback.
It had the desired effect, it seems. Fires were extinguished, roads were cleared of burnt debris, and exhausted demonstrators went to bed.
At last, peace descended, and it is hoped that residents living on either side of the dune could at least start shedding some of the intense stress of the previous 24 hours.

Sadly, the aftermath left behind by the riot has left Sedgefield reeling, and the community splintered in so many ways. Anger that so often accompanies fear has understandably boiled over and vented too freely on social media platforms. Whether the vehement racial outbursts from extreme elements of both Smutsville and the town itself will leave scars on the community spirit for which Sedgefield is so famous, remains to be seen.