‘MONC’ RUFFLES FEATHERS

Whilst local politics were relatively quiet in the build up to the Provincial and National elections, it seems that now that particular voting process is done and dusted, the next season of Knysna Council’s ‘Game of Thrones’ has begun.
This with a Motion of No Confidence (MONC) against Knysna Mayor Mark Willemse set to be heard at Thursday’s Council Meeting.

After having been left alone for a few months the DA Mayor is evidently back on the chopping block, after a surprise move by seven of the nine councillors in the DA Caucus (Cllr Michelle Wasserman, Cllr Donovan Pofadder, Cllr Levael Davis, Cllr Georlene Wolmarans, Cllr Sibusiso Kwinana, Cllr Luzuko Tyokolo and Cllr Cathy Weideman) who have submitted notice of a MONC against him.
The Knysna Ratepayers Association is incensed about this motion, and have issued a strongly-worded statement as follows.

“Knysna residents are again being treated to the unedifying spectacle of remote-controlled DA councillors trying to get rid of Mayor Mark Willemse by bringing a Motion of No Confidence (“MONC”) against him. Although the councillors claim (in a press release) that “this is not the result of any instruction from the leadership structures of the DA”, the history behind this tells a different story—it is clear that DA party bosses in Cape Town are again interfering in Knysna’s governance. Their motive: in June 2018 Willemse, a DA Councillor, was voted in by a coalition of the ANC, a minority of DA councillors, and independent councillors to replace former DA Mayor Eleanor Bouw-Spies. Some party bosses have never forgiven Mark (Willemse) for putting the interests of the town and its residents ahead of party loyalty.
“This week’s notice of intention to introduce a MONC against Willemse was signed by DA Councillor Michelle Wasserman and seconded by DA councillor Levael Davis. As far as the councillors’ stated motivation is concerned, the notice simply says: “The Executive Mayor has not in the view of Council performed his duties satisfactorily.” Is that a motivation? If you google “define: motivation” you will find the following: a set of facts and arguments used in support of a proposal.” Councillor Wasserman’s motivation is either a masterpiece of brevity and conciseness, or no motivation at all. You decide.
“In the unlikely event that the MONC carries, and in the even less likely event that the DA caucus can muster the votes from the entire Council to elect a new mayor, the fortunate beneficiary is likely to be none other than the DA’s own Michelle Wasserman—the author of the MONC to remove Mayor Willemse. Ironically, Wasserman was not elected to this Council, but was parachuted in to replace Willemse almost a year ago, if the DA could force him out as mayor. Although she was elected Ward 9 councillor in 2011, she left her ward in the lurch when she resigned in 2015, opening the door to current Ward 9 Councillor (and Mayor) Willemse, who had to pick up the pieces, and has since proved his mettle and earned the admiration and support of residents from all of Knysna’s disparate communities.”

The press release the Ratepayers quote was sent out earlier in the day by Councillor Michelle Wasserman on behalf of the seven councillors. It gives the following reasons for the MONC in the current Knysna Mayor.

1. The Democratic Alliance’s 2016 Manifesto set out the DA’s plan and promise of what DA-run local governments would deliver. Despite repeated requests from the caucus that he do so, Cllr Willemse has not made any effort to use the DA manifesto as a basis for prioritisation and planning for Knysna Municipality.
2. Cllr Willemse has not shown political leadership and is not providing strategic direction to Knysna Municipality’s administration. Consequence management has also not been implemented during his tenure as Executive Mayor.
3. Cllr Willemse has lost credibility amongst councillors, officials and members of the public who perceive him as being unable to make his own decisions and being “remote controlled” by Cllr Peter Myers.
4. Cllr Willemse does not take the concerns and advice of members of the DA caucus (other than Cllr Peter Myers) seriously and has repeatedly either neglected to bring matters to the caucus or ignored the needs of the community that are brought to the table by members of the DA caucus. One of the most recent examples of this was our request to Cllr Willemse to timeously consult with communities regarding the installation of water meters. This request was ignored and the result was the service delivery protests which closed the N2 and negatively affected the whole town.
5. On 6 June 2018 Cllr Willemse, together with the ANC, voted out the approved DA Mayor. He then accepted the nomination for the position of Executive Mayor despite not being properly approved by the DA to do so and was voted into that position by the ANC.
6. In September 2018 Cllr Willemse participated in the Democratic Alliance’s selection process for the position of Executive Mayor for Knysna Municipality. Despite participating in the process, he elected to reject its outcome when he was not chosen as the successful candidate.
The release continues:
The decisions to request Cllr Willemse to resign and to submit a MONC against him were made by the seven of us personally and are not the result of any instruction from the leadership structures of the DA. We have, in terms of the DA’s Federal Constitution, requested that the DA’s Federal Executive approve our MONC and we await its response.
There is an argument circulating on social media that Cllr Willemse “followed his voters’ mandate” when he voted with the ANC to oust DA Executive Mayor, former Cllr Bouw-Spies, and accept the position of Executive Mayor. This argument is manifestly unsound. How was this mandate given when hardly any of the residents of his ward were aware of what was happening until after it had happened?
DA Mayors are required to implement the local government manifesto of the DA. In practice, this means that the Mayor must ensure that DA policies and the manifesto inform municipal policies and budgets through the IDP and budget process plan. Cllr Willemse makes no secret of the fact that he does not, and will not, take direction from the DA manifesto. This means that what people voted for in 2016 is not what they are getting.
Knysna residents might feel that they do not care if Cllr Willemse implements the DA manifesto or not, as long as his planning and prioritisation is in the best interests of the town. Therein lies a second problem: if Cllr Willemse has a plan of his own then we, members of his caucus, are not aware of it.
We have seen the petition initiated by local residents against our MONC which states that “after many years of neglecting our Knysna Town, Cllr Willemse got things going again”. We question what Cllr Willemse has done to “get things going again”. The projects which are currently rolling out, for example the Charlesford Scheme and the Knysna CBD upgrade were initiated prior to Cllr Willemse’s tenure.
What role has Cllr Willemse played in implementing the projects identified by the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative (GRRI)? When we asked Cllr Willemse if anyone in the municipality was taking responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the GRRI projects, specifically the revival of the Choo Tjoe steam train (which is vital for tourism as well as the reduction of exorbitant waste transportation costs) and the building of a by-pass, he did not know.
Seven out of the nine DA councillors have decided that we cannot allow this situation to continue. We anticipate that Cllrs Willemse and Myers will join hands with the party that voted them into power and this will mean that Knysna Municipality may soon be governed by the ANC. But the truth of the matter, if you look at the facts, is that Knysna Municipality has not been governed by the Democratic Alliance since 6 June 2018.
The Mayor himself has responded in detail to Wasserman’s press release – see his statement on page 3.

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!”