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!

TIME TO TACKLE CRIME

With a sudden spate of armed robberies happening in Knysna, Sedgefield, and Wilderness, it is suspected that an out-of-town ‘crime syndicate’ is working in the area. Residents are being warned to be extra-vigilant, and report any out of the ordinary sightings of vehicles in and around local suburbs.
On Monday 30 September an elderly Sedgefield man was accosted in his own home just after midnight, after perpetrators bent palisade fencing to access the security complex where he lives. It was fortunate that his wife was away at the time.
The victim (name withheld), whose home is in the Aviemore gated village on the Northern side of the national highway, had reportedly just finished showering when he came face to face with three men in his home. They had come through his unlocked back door.
He described them as all of small build and wearing balaclavas. At least one was armed with a gun and another was brandishing a dangerous-looking metal object.
After they threatened that there would be big trouble should he choose not to cooperate, he allowed them to tie him up and lock him in his bedroom. Then they began ransacking his house.
Up until that time he had not been hurt, so the man did everything he could to free himself, hoping to get away before they came back into the room. Eventually, he managed, to climb out through a small window and rush to a neighbour’s home.
After calling the police, the man and his neighbour went back to his house and, once they had made doubly sure the perpetrators were no longer around, they went inside.
The victim discovered that the perpetrators had stolen his phone, his wife’s jewelry and a lot of clothing. They had attempted to remove his television from the wall bracket, but failed to do so.
When the police arrived – reportedly hours later – their investigation led them to a place where the perpetrators had entered by bending the metal palisade fence on the railway side of the property, some way away from the homes.
Wilderness has also been hit by a spate of crime over the weekend. According to one security group there were four properties hit in one night, these included Langvlei Dunes, Kingfisher Close, Constantia kloof and North Street.
Whilst we await confirmation from SAPS it has been reported that in the Langvlei Dune incident the homeowner was attacked and ended up in hospital with serious injuries, including a very badly damaged eye.
In the North Street robbery five armed men reportedly entered a B&B and, after waking up the guests, tied them up with electric cords before making off with their belongings.
Fortunately, the guests were not harmed, but will no doubt have been traumatised by this experience in the usually low-crime Garden Route area.
Michael Simon of Sedgefield’s Community Orientated Policing (COP) says that three similar robberies had happened in Knysna over the last few weeks, and he had feared that Sedgefield and Wilderness might be hit. He believes that now more than ever is the time to be pro-active.
“We just have to stop thinking that it will never happen to us. We have to be more vigilant and report anything out of the ordinary to the various neighbourhood watches and security groups – especially if we see foreign cars ‘cruising’ our streets,” he said. “Keep doors locked, even if you are in the house and awake, even during the day. Just take any extra precaution that will make you less vulnerable.”

76-YR-OLD MAN MURDERED, TWO SUSPECTS ARRESTED

A resident of Paul Kruger Street in Sedgefield’s normally quiet Island suburb was found murdered on Monday night. SAPS have since identified the victim as Peter Henson. His body was discovered by a member of Community Orientated Policing (COP).

The COP member had been returning home from another call-out when he saw Henson’s dog running around on the streets. Having previously been to Henson’s house, he recognised the animal so picked it up to return it to its owner. He was concerned as Henson was known by various security organisations as being ‘high risk’ due to his ‘open door’ policy when it came to giving visitors access to his home, day and night.

On entering the property at approximately 22H00 the COP member found the house open with no sign of forced entry. The body of the victim was lying on the floor. The 76-year-old man’s hands had been tied behind his back and a gag cloth in his mouth was held in place with the same rope.
SAPS were alerted as well as other members of COP and the local neighbourhood watch. According to SAPS, preliminary investigations revealed that the perpetrators had fled with a number of Henson’s personal belongings, which included a DSTV decoder, a knife and his personal diary.

Further investigation yielded positive results when two suspects were arrested within hours of the crime being committed.

Information received led SAPS detectives to a residence in Smutsville, where they recovered the stolen items and subsequently arrested two men in their late-twenties.

The suspects are scheduled to appear in the Knysna Magistrates’ court later this week, facing charges of both murder and theft. An autopsy will be performed on the body of the deceased to determine the cause of death.