GROENVLEI TO BRUINVLEI

CAPE NATURE CALLS FOR PARTNERSHIPS TO ASSIST IN RESTORING THIS UNIQUE BODY OF WATER

(PICTURE: Aerial photo of Groenvlei showing current poor water clarity taken on 9 January 2020. Extremely worrying when compared to the
photo on page 3, taken a year previously)

Whilst locals have known for some time that ‘Groenvlei’ (known to some as ‘Lake Pleasant’) has been suffering over the last year or so due to the ever-increasing population of the invasive Carp, there are some who feel that this once-pristine water system has now reached a point of no return.
The visual evidence that they may be right is substantial. The colour and clarity of the spring-fed fresh-water lake have changed so drastically that it could easily be mistaken for a muddy mine-dump dam, a far cry from the sparkling waters most locals know and love.
Cape Nature, the custodians of Groenvlei and the Goukamma Nature Reserve that surrounds it, have announced that the lake is indeed in a state of serious decline, and are asking for assistance in resuscitating it back to its former glory.
In a press release issued this week, they emphasised the importance of Groenvlei, saying it contains genetically unique populations of two indigenous small fish species, the Estuarine round herring and the Cape silverside. (The press release in full is on page 3)
Records show that the original release of Carp into Groenvlei was done as recently as the late 1990s. According to Rhett Heisman, manager of the Goukamma Reserve at the time, a fisherman had been overheard boasting that he had thrown in ‘a few carp’ because they were his preferred catch. Unfortunately, the perpetrator could not be arrested as his own testimony was the only evidence against him.
Surely a lesson that nature should not be tampered with.

VOLUNTEERS HOODWINKED BY SCAM ARTIST

(Please note – this is NOT a picture of the scam artist.)

On Thursday 12 December, two female Hospice volunteers (names withheld at their request) were ‘charmed’ out of thousands of rands worth of personal possessions – namely gold jewelry and Kruger Rands – by a young Indian man who seemingly bamboozled them with sweet talk and, no doubt, some clever ‘sleight of hand’.
It was during the load-shedding when the con artist, who they describe as a slick young man, probably aged about 30, walked into the Sedgefield Hospice Charity Shop. They were short-staffed at the time, so there weren’t so many eyes to keep a watch on the front shop. But even with that, they certainly had no suspicions that he was up to any misdeeds. He was chatty, and charismatic, saying how at this time of the year he and his colleagues did a lot for charities in the form of donations, especially of household linen.
“He actually handed us two pillows and some rolls of toilet paper as a donation for the shop,” one of the ladies later told us.
As the man conversed with the two women, he looked around the shop, choosing things to buy and bringing them to the counter. He suggested that a tally be kept and asked the ladies to let him know when he reached R500, claiming his friend was bringing money from Knysna as they had been unable to draw in Sedgefield because of the load-shedding.
Indeed, a while later he did get some money – they presumed from his friend – and paid the ladies, though he didn’t make any effort to take his purchases from the counter.
Instead, the man started a different line of conversation with them. “He began telling us how valuable certain coins were and how much he could give us for them,” the lady recalls, “ And then he asked about gold items which we might have to sell.”
The man then picked up a cufflink from the counter. He said it might be gold and asked if he could ‘test it’. When they agreed he produced a container of liquid and dropped the cufflink in. Whilst they all watched to see what would happen, he continued his smooth-talking, eventually convincing one of the ladies to take off her gold ring so he could put it into the container to compare. He explained that it would have to stay there for a while. Of course, she did what the nice man asked.
“In the meantime,” her friend told us, “He began looking at the coins in our float and said that he could give us a lot of money for some of them.” There followed a discussion about how valuable certain coins were. “I mentioned I had a Kruger Rand set which I wanted to sell and he offered me much more than I thought I could get,” the lady said, “In my stupidity, I got my husband to bring it to the shop. My friend also got some of her coins as well as some gold bangles.”
By this time, the man had them hanging on his every word, and firmly entwined in his circle of trust.
But then, the volunteer told us, the shop got busier, and they couldn’t give him their full attention. As he stood, supposedly waiting for them, he kept phoning his partner on his cell, asking him to bring some more cash.
“At one stage he left the shop to get the money from his partner,” the lady said.
But as all the goods he had bought – and indeed paid for – were on the counter, along with the box of Kruger Rands and the container of ‘gold test’ liquid, there was no need for them to feel suspicious about their new friend.
When he still hadn’t returned some time later they started feeling a little uneasy. They went to the counter and gingerly opened the box which had contained the Kruger Rand coins – they were gone.
Then they quickly checked the container with the liquid in. All the gold items that he had put in there to test had also disappeared – including the ring, gold bangles and gold coins.
“He never came back,” she told us, “He even left the items he had bought and paid for.”
On discussing the scam artist with the shopkeepers of adjacent shops, they heard that he had been there as well, but no-one else had suffered any loss.
The ladies have both since been to the local SAPS station and opened a case.
“I actually feel embarrassed to report this as we were two gullible old ladies that were conned by this very slick, young guy,” one of them told us, “But perhaps the public can be warned about this person and his modus operandi.”

SANPARKS WILDERNESS SCOOPS AWARDS

The Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) scooped the most coveted award of Park of the Year at the South African National Parks Awards (Kudu Awards) in Gallagher Estate, Johannesburg. The Park’s marine ranger Jonathan Britton also won the Shield Award, for continued acts of placing himself in harm’s way to save others. Efforts include the Garden Route fires, representing SANParks in various rescue operations with stakeholders including the Kingfisher trail, Brown-hooded incidents, 2018 Festive season criminal incidents.
 
Speaking at the Awards, Dr Sandra Taljaard, Park Manager of the Wilderness section of the GRNP said “We are excited to receive the Park of the Year Award. To us it means our national peers appreciate and recognize that despite the many challenges faced by the Park during the 2018/2019 Financial year, the team found innovative ways to achieve set targets for the year.”
 
The Award for Park of the year is won by a Park that has come up with the most innovative measures in meeting the financial and human resource constraints.
 
Speaking about his achievement, Britton said he cannot claim this award only for himself and thus attributes his award to the rest of the ranger teams in Wilderness. Speaking about Britton, Park Manager for Wilderness, Sandra Taljaard, says ‘Jonathan is always at the forefront of the team leading and has done so in various rescue operations during the 2018/2019 financial year.’
 
The Wilderness Lakes Ramsar Site covers 1,300 hectares and incorporates the estuarine lakes of Rondevlei, Langvlei and Eilandvlei, and the Serpentine channel as well as a dune system with associated thickets, woodlands, marshes, and reedbeds. Important locally-migrant resident birds, as well as staging and breeding birds, use the site, which supports at least 285 native plant species, 32 fish species (several of which use the site as a nursery area), and a diverse array of marine and estuarine invertebrate fauna.
 
Picture: Jonathan Britton, Marine Ranger for Wilderness with Park Manager, Dr Sandra Taljaard

THE BIGGEST IN AFRICA

NOW IN ITS 5TH YEAR, THE EDEN KITE FESTIVAL HAS GROWN IN LEAPS AND BOUNDS – AND ALL FOR A GREAT CAUSE

A kite festival is a glorious celebration of health and wellness. Families get out into the fresh air together and look up, rather than down at a screen. The whole community comes out because it includes everybody, not excluding any segment or age. And of course, there is the spectacle of the marvelous creations in the sky.

This December will see the 5th Eden Kite Festival taking place. Our country event has grown, in just five years, to the biggest kite festival in Africa. There will be more kiters than ever before and it takes place over three and a half days!

Sadly, the main event is not in Sedgefield as before, due to the unavailability of a suitable venue. We hope to bring it back home next year while keeping the other two venues as well.

So this year it is in George for a day again, at the Sasol garage on the N2 near Kaaiman’s on Saturday 16th December. Then the whole shebang moves to Knysna for 2 days at the Knysna High school fields on Waterfront Drive on Monday and Tuesday 15th and 16th December.

We have a team of three from Finland this year, the first time that country is represented. Several return visitors are coming back again: Peter “Soutie” Hulcoop from England, Gadis Widiyati of Singapore and Alicja Sjalska of Poland. In fact, Alicja has been to many festivals around Asia and Europe and says Eden is her favourite of all. That’s because of our natural beauty and the friendly, neighbourhood feel of the Garden Route people and the festival. She is bringing partner Szymon with her this year and they will be running kite-making workshops with their great kites made of real ripstop nylon. Gadis will also be running kite-making workshops. Hers was particularly popular when she was last here.

Renowned Indian kite-maker Asghar Bhelim, together with his team of three, will exhibit his hand-painted kites and, for the first time we have a representative from Zimbabwe – the effervescent Suraiya Essof from Kites for Peace Zimbabwe. Last, but most certainly not least, are the kiters from around South Africa, some of whom have been at all five editions of Eden Kite Festival.

As always there’s fun for everyone. Apart from the kite-making workshops – which cater for all ages – there is paintball at George and the ever-popular kite battle on all three days, where teams compete with Japanese fighting kites. This year you can enter on the day, so get your two or three of your family or friends together and join in!

If you have a kite bring it along, otherwise make one or buy one at the festival.

Last year’s Kite Festival raised R58 000 for Masithandane’s Children’s Bursary Fund which assists in the education of local children, particularly those of high-school age as there is no high school or government school transport in Sedgefield.

Although the festival itself isn’t in Sedgefield this year, residents will be given the opportunity of a sneak preview! Get down to Myoli Beach on Friday afternoon 13th (2pm – 6pm) and get a free taste of the main events.

Entrance to the festival is R20 for adults and R10 for children. Gates open at 9.30 and close at 16:30 each day.

JACKY WEAVER HONOURED WITH ROTARY’S HIGHEST ACCOLADE

The Rotary Club of Knysna recently presented Masithandane’s Jacky Weaver the Paul Harris Fellowship Award.
This prestigious award is made to those who have served to the highest standard in contributing to their communities, while showing honesty and integrity in all that they do. “It is the belief of this club that Jacky Weaver is one such person, and the award was therefore made to her,” says Club President Julie Staub.

The true honour of this award really hits home when one considers some of the others who have been named Paul Harris Fellows, including U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, U.S. astronaut James Lovell, UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, and polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk.

Ever-humble, but always ready to quietly step up to the ongoing challenge of uplifting those in need, Jacky is the current Chairman of the Masithandane Board and sits on the Finance Committee. The NPO’s influence stretches far beyond the local townships close to Sedgefield, including Karatara, Fairview and Farleigh, where there is great need because of poverty, unemployment and abuse in all sectors of the population.

Masithandane focuses on many different interventions: Home-based care, vulnerable children and the elderly, life skills, food security and nutrition, transport, health and safety, job creation and skills training, education and literacy, prevention and treatment of illnesses, emergency nursing, support of local learners, healthcare training and Early Childhood Development.

“Jacky continues to work tirelessly to improve the lives of those less fortunate – a true Rotarian in every respect, and the Rotary Club of Knysna thanks her for her continued efforts,” says the Rotary President.

COMMUNITY CALLS FOR ACTION AGAINST CRIME

Smutsville resident Bulelani Mbanya tells the top brass of SAPS Knysna that Smutsville needs help in fighting crime.

At a public meeting held on Monday 25 November at the Smutsville Community Hall, many residents vented their frustrations regarding the continuous problem of crime in their community. Whilst the members of SAPS and Knysna CPF who were present tried their utmost to give answers to all the questions raised, it was soon evident that due to lack of resources, no instant-fix would be forthcoming from SAPS, and a far more trusting relationship between SAPS and local residents would be necessary to have any sort of impact on crime.
The meeting had been called by the community, who presented a list of problems for SAPS to consider. These included SAPS only having one van in Sedgefield, complaints of finding the police station ‘closed’ at night, criminals with open cases against them still being on the street, and the need for SAPS visibility, especially over weekends.
The last point on the agenda put the community concerns in a nutshell.
“How will the police assist us in getting our town back from drugs and crime?”
To SAPS credit, they sent the top team to face the questions. Alongside Sector 6 Satellite Station Commander Kapp were Knysna Station Commander Metu, Head of Visible Policing Colonel Gogwana, Detective Branch Commander Colonel Khan, and Knysna CPF Chair Cheryl Brits. Sedgefield’s Community Orientated Policing (COP) was represented by Michael Simon.
Colonel Gogwana fielded most of the questions, as one by one community members stood to talk about the very bleak crime situation in Smutsville and Sizamile.
“I have to sleep with a knife in my bed in case someone breaks in,” said one woman who is a single parent.
“We feel like the justice system is failing us in Smutsville,” complained another.
Another speaker, a young man who relocated here from the Eastern Cape some time back, said he had never lived in a community as fearful of crime as Smutsville. He said that there is a very real danger of residents taking the law into their own hands. “I feel I am not protected,” he said, “If someone breaks into my home I will do anything to sort him out.”
Shouts of agreement echoed from the floor, and it seemed that a sizeable number of those present felt vigilantism was the only answer.
Gogwana explained that whilst everyone has the right to defend themselves, residents should refrain from going out and looking for criminals. “Then you are taking the law into your own hands,” he warned, “If you do that, then I will have no choice but to prosecute you.”
He called on residents to share information with SAPS, saying that the police will endeavour to raid suspected drug houses, or businesses buying and selling stolen property. He said that it is only with communities working together with SAPS, and joining registered Neighbourhood Watches, that any dent can be made in criminal activity.
When a few from the floor suggested that SAPS members were not doing their jobs effectively, he said the large number of criminals incarcerated in Knysna proved that they were.
“Correctional Services can house 179 prisoners max. Currently there are 370. That is more than double – so it’s not like we are not making arrests,” he said.
Another understandable complaint from local residents was that SAPS members had been bringing suspects around to their accusers homes for identification. This, they said, put them in the very scary position of ‘being identified as the one who had informed’. Gogwana agreed that this was totally wrong, and asked that any instances that suggest inappropriate conduct by any SAPS member be formally reported at a SAPS station, so that he or she can be taken to task.
Warrant Officer Kapp was one of the last to take the microphone – and touched on the subject of the juvenile crime that seems to be pervading the town. He put at least some of the responsibility at the feet of the parents, saying that tackling this issue must start at the home, with the children.
Members of the community agreed, suggesting that with school holidays approaching, activities to keep young people busy were a must.
What started as a potentially explosive meeting eventually brought most people present to agreement:- That SAPS could only be more effective with assistance from the community and the Neighbourhood Watch, that parents had to make every effort to keep young children and teens off the streets at night, and that the police would play their part by initiating higher visibility in the community on a regular basis..

ARREST MADE FOR SENSELESS MURDER

Family and friends of Thomas Mollo were both devastated and mystified by his tragic murder on Sunday 10 November.
According to his wife, Stella, the forty-two-year-old father had just gone to a Spaza shop 300m from his home in Smutsville, to buy cooldrinks, mobile data and cigarettes. A short while later he staggered back, covered in blood, and collapsed into her arms. He had been stabbed in his right side, resulting in a punctured lung. Emergency services were called, but before he could be helped, Thomas succumbed to his injuries.

SAPS Captain Kitching said that evidence and assistance from the public had led to the arrest of Thulani Songwaxa (23) the following morning.

According to witnesses on the scene Thomas had had a very minor altercation with someone in the shop – though this hadn’t been the suspect. It was something as small as treading on a toe, then apologising. Nothing one would think to be of any significance.

But as he stepped outside to head for home, Thomas met Songwaxa, who allegedly attacked him without warning.

Songwaxa appeared in court on Tuesday 12 November where the case was postponed for further investigation. He remains in custody.
Our heartfelt condolences go to Stella Mollo and their two teenage children.

A NEW YEAR SCORE FOR MASITHANDANE

Masithandane has managed to secure the multi-platinum, award-winning band WATERSHED for Sedgefield on New Year’s Eve!

This as a fundraiser for the NPO.

Watershed, one of the most successful and well-loved bands ever to come out of South Africa, will be celebrating 20 years in 2020.

The multi-platinum selling band has released six studio albums during their 20 year career, along with a ‘Greatest Hits’ album. They have received two SAMA awards for Best Pop Album and a SAMA nomination for Best Adult Contemporary Album in 2019. They are also multiple winners of SA’s Best Band award by People Magazine.

Watershed’s enduring popularity began with songs such as Indigo Girl, Fine Way and Letters; but these are likely to be surpassed by their newest release. Written from the light and safe space of life in Kalk Bay, Watershed’s latest album is called Harbour. In it singer/writer Craig has captured stories that we all live with daily.
“It’s a beautiful life here. It’s really important to move on from the negativity we are faced with every day,” he says.

The band will feature Craig Hinds on vocals, keyboards, and guitar, Howie Combrink on drums and guitar, Gideon Botes on electric guitar and Quintin Askes on bass. The evening will include up-tempo songs with the sounds of mandolins, banjos, violins and ukuleles, with lyrics inspired by the ocean and mountain vistas of the False Bay coast.

Watershed may be well-loved locally and faithfully supported at music events and gigs, but they have met equal success overseas. They have toured Europe, performing alongside some of the biggest names in the music world, including U2, Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, The Corrs and The Cranberries.

Music-lovers who are keen to experience the incredible energy and signature sound that is Watershed on 31 December 2019 should book soon to avoid disappointment. They will be performing in the Octopus Garden Under the Sea from 21:00 to 23:00 to celebrate the year that was! Then DJs Gary and Laki of Mobi Dique will rock you into 2020 with music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s!

For booking details please go to www.quicket.co.za

MAYOR’S CASE HEARD IN COURT AND DA COUNCILLOR POFADDER RESIGNS

Picture – Ward 11 Councillor Pofadder of the Democratic Alliance.

The roller-coaster ride of Knysna’s political scene took another loop yesterday (Tuesday 15 October) when the Democratic Alliance’s Ward 11 Councillor, Donovan Pofadder, tendered his resignation with immediate effect.
Worse yet for Knysna’s ruling party, was the content of his resignation letter, which was hand-delivered to the Municipal Manager’s office. In it he quite pointedly laid blame on the DA for his decision to resign, and especially mentioned his disapproval of the manner in which the party is treating Mayor Mark Willemse.
“I feel strongly that we as a party lost focus on what is important, while infighting within our ranks was taking priority.” he stated, “Positions of power became more important than the people we had promised to serve.”
“I wish Mark well in his battle and apologise for not being able to give him the support he deserves or continue building a better Knysna under his leadership.”
Whilst news of this resignation was buzzing about the Municipal hallways, and indeed social media, the current Mayor (or ex-Mayor, – it is difficult to keep up) Mark Willemse was in constant communication with his lawyers who were fighting his case in the High Court in Cape Town.
This in an urgent application for three interdicts:- The first to prevent the DA from withdrawing his party membership using the ‘De Lille Clause’, the second, to prevent the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) from going ahead with a bi-election for his ward (Ward 9), and the third, to prevent the Knysna Municipality from declaring a vacancy in that ward.
An interim order had been issued on the previous Friday by High Court Judge Erasmus so that all three of these matters could be put on hold pending the outcome of today’s court proceedings.
It is expected that once the evidence presented by the legal teams during the course of Tuesday has been taken into consideration, judgement will be made before the end of this week.
Meanwhile, Councillor Pofadder’s resignation may put Knysna’s Democratic Alliance in a precarious position. Should the party’s hierarchy succeed in ousting Willemse, the ANC and the DA will be on equal footing with eight council seats each. The current Deputy Mayor Aubrey Tshengwa and Council Speaker Titi Gombo are both ANC members, so there will no doubt be some very interesting political jousting in the chambers to see who rules the council and who is opposition.

MAYOR WON’T LEAVE DA

On Monday 30 September DA Mayor Mark Willemse received official notice that his membership of the Democratic Alliance had been terminated.
This is the result of a long-term spat between Willemse and the upper echelons of the party, after he and fellow councillor Peter Myers ‘voted their consciences’ in a vote of no confidence against former DA Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies last year. Thereafter he was elected unopposed as Knysna’s Executive Mayor.
The news of this latest move against him by the DA came in a letter from the party’s Federal Executive. In effect, not having party membership would mean that Willemse would no longer be Mayor, his council seat would be vacant, and a ward election would follow in due course.
The normal procedure would be for the Fedex to give notice of this decision to the Municipal Manager (MM), and he would, in turn, contact the IEC to begin the ward election process. Whilst confirming that he had indeed been informed, MM Dr Vatala has said that in terms of the Municipal Structures Act, he has 14 days to consult with the IEC and to call and set a date for a by-election.
Meanwhile, Mayor Willemse is determined that he will not be kicked out of the DA.
“I believe this termination is unconstitutional, and, as a matter of principle, I will fight this process,” he calmly told us.
And true to his word, Willemse has instructed his lawyers to challenge the matter in court and initiate an interdict to halt the election process. The MM has already been informed of this intention. Watch this space!