Even as the third wave of COVID-19 is rearing its ugly head and President Ramaphosa has put the country on Alert Level 3, plans are in place for the roll-out of the vaccination program. This Thursday 150 Sedgefield residents should be getting their first shot at the local clinic.
The much-publicised destroying of two million of South Africa’s Johnson and Johnson vaccines after it was discovered that they had been accidentally contaminated in America has certainly slowed things down, and locally it seems that there aren’t huge numbers of vaccines available.
At the time of going to press, the Sedgefield Clinic is set to start vaccinating on Thursday 17 June – but only 150 doses have been received. Residents who are 60 years old and over who have registered online on the Government EVDS portal are asked to look out for an SMS message informing them of the time they should report to the clinic. There have also been reports of a two queue system to be implemented to accommodate walk-ins.
Meanwhile, in a proactive move to assist with the vaccination roll-out process, Sedgefield Pharmacy has registered to be a dispenser of the vaccine and hopes to begin vaccinating at the end of the month, depending on the arrival of the vaccines themselves.
“Unfortunately, legislation from the Department of Health stipulates that private pharmacies may only dispense the vaccination to those who have some form of medical aid or hospital plan,” explains Pharmacy Manager Stuart Daniell, “But that will include a lot of local people, and so hopefully take some pressure of the government clinic.”
Stuart says the Pharmacy wants to make the process as easy as possible and ensure that as many Sedgefield residents as possible can be vaccinated.
“Most locals will be on our database already, so we will have all their details and be able to set up appointments for them to have their vaccine and notify them accordingly. They still have to be registered on the EVDS system, but even that we can check for them and handle everything from there on,” he told us. He pointed out that anyone sixty and over who is worried that they may not be on the Pharmacy’s records may send their name and ID number to their dedicated WhatsApp line 079 483 1949.
“Please don’t call,” he asked, “We are already overwhelmed with telephonic enquiries about the vaccine.”
For the actual vaccination process, they have been given the use of the NG Church Hall, and a number of volunteer administrators and seven qualified nurses trained in the vaccination process will be stepping in to make the experience as seamless as possible, whilst keeping COVID protocols in place.
Stuart explained that the Government has declared the vaccine a ‘Prescribed Minimum Benefit’ of all medical aids and hospital plans, so no individual will have to pay for it.
“With the hold up on the J&J vaccines, we will most probably be using the Pfizer brand,” he reported, adding that this means two shots, approximately 42 days apart, will be necessary. “Once again, this is something we can handle. So we can notify each person when they are due for their second vaccination,” he said.
The local pharmacist did point out that some Sedgefield residents may meanwhile receive an SMS notification from the EVDS system telling them to report to a government medical facility to get their vaccine. “If it’s before we are ready to roll-out, and they would like to be vaccinated sooner, rather than later, then they should definitely go and have it done,” he said, “The plan is simply to get Sedgefield’s 60+ residents vaccinated in as short a time as possible.”
Stuart also confirmed that the pharmacy would have to stick to the phased roll-out prescribed by the Government with regards to age. In other words, during the current phase, only those sixty and over will be able to get vaccinated. When the Government announces the next phase of the roll-out, those under 60 may register themselves.

This wonderful picture was taken by our local ‘Travelbug’ – Rose Bilbrough.

According to the late legendary whale and dolphin researcher, Professor Peter Best, the “Northern migration of Humpback whales seems to reach the African coastline in the vicinity of Knysna”.
Hence, it is obvious that we live in the perfect place to start celebrating the welcome arrival of these magnificent creatures.

Read more about Knysna’s part in the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE HUMPBACK MIGRATION ROUTE on page 5 in our latest edition (issue 616).

(PICTURE: An early responder attempts to fight the blaze that destroyed four homes. Taken by Pearl Kimmel)

The sounds of sirens going up Makou Street is something that sends chills down most Sedgefielders’ spines because every local knows that with the wrong wind conditions a fire in the informal area could result in catastrophe.

On Monday evening, four families living in ‘Die Gaatjie’, just off Bitou Street, lost their homes and many of their possessions, as sometime between 8.30 and 9pm a blaze engulfed their informal wooden structures. The boom of gas bottles exploding echoed through Smutsville, and the terror-stricken cries of people scrambling to evacuate their homes were heard by folks living close to the terrible scene.

The fire was miraculously contained before it could spread further – this thanks to the quick reaction of residents and the swift arrival of fire trucks, as well as others who rushed to the scene to assist. Their combined efforts in stopping the spread of the blaze surely saved many lives, especially considering the warm weather conditions experienced on Monday.

Also miraculous was the fact that no injuries were reported.

Mike Hofhuis of COP, whose members were called to the scene to provide backup should the firefighters need assistance, said it certainly was a job well done by the Fire Department. Stopping the flames leaping the narrow gaps between the hundreds of homes clustered together had been of paramount importance in avoiding a major disaster.

The Smutsville Community Hall was opened to provide safe shelter for the fire victims, and various humanitarian groups are collecting goods to assist them to rebuild their lives.

Donations of household goods, clothes and food may be dropped at Masithandane. (044 343 2110)

Residents of Greater Knysna are asking some very serious questions about due diligence, or the lack thereof, in the recruitment process for top positions at Knysna Municipality. This after Lindile Petuna, the current Acting Director Integrated Human Settlements has once again made headlines – and not in a good way.
The Port Elizabeth High Court has ordered Petuna to pay back an amount of R11.3 million to Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality after it was found that the authority had overpaid for a property in 2015 on his recommendation when he was that municipality’s Executive Director of Human Settlements.
According to a press statement from Nelson Mandela Bay, Petuna had recommended that the council approve the purchase of portion 10 of the farm Seaview 28, Clarendon Marine, for R14.3m to develop low-cost housing. Petuna also withheld critical information from the Executive Mayor and the Municipal Council regarding the market value (R3 million) of the land and the findings of a feasibility study, obtained two years earlier by his own department.
Petuna’s name was also in the headlines in October last year, when he was ordered to pay more than R550 000 for misleading the same municipality regarding rezoning applications. The more recent judgement is asking the Knysna employee to fork out twenty times that amount.
“In the latest case,” the Mandela Bay press statement reported, “Petuna stated that he cannot be held accountable as he is not a current municipal official and that he acted on reports by the Department of Human Settlements. He left the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality after a settlement agreement with the institution in November 2015.”
In both cases, Petuna was ordered to pay the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s legal costs with interest.
The Knysna Ratepayers Association (KRA) is incensed with the Knysna authorities.
“This is the second judgment from the Eastern Cape High Court in which Mr Petuna, the Human Settlements Manager for Knysna Municipality and a member of the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal, has been ordered to pay back money to his previous employer, the Nelson Mandela Metro,” they said in a statement.
The KRA was first alerted to the allegations against Petuna at the end of August 2019, when DA Member of Parliament Dion George issued a press release in which he alleged that Petuna had been accused of misleading or attempting to mislead the Nelson Mandela Bay Council on 133 separate occasions, after which he resigned at a disciplinary hearing.
“Mr George called on the Knysna Mayor and the ANC to review the appointment.” the KRA statement continues.
The KRA said that Dion George’s press release was issued on the day after the Knysna Council, including the DA Councillors, had unanimously appointed Mr Petuna to the Knysna Municipal Planning Tribunal.
Further surprise for the association came in May 2020 when Petuna was again appointed to the Tribunal, once again with the support of both the DA and ANC Councillors.
“The KRA was extremely concerned about the allegations, and when Mr Petuna was reappointed to the Tribunal we requested information from Knysna Municipality to determine whether they were aware of the very serious allegations against Mr Petuna when he was appointed Housing Manager in 2019 and whether the Acting Municipal Manager made enquiries of the Metro in 2020 before Petuna was reappointed to the Tribunal. To date, we have not yet received a satisfactory response from Knysna Municipality.” The statement reads.
“In October 2020 we read in the press that Mr Petuna had been ordered by the High Court to pay R550,000.00 after he had wrongfully advised the Metro to rezone land for the development of a luxury hotel and chapel. Petuna’s recommendation cost the Metro hundreds of thousands of rand in legal fees, as it had to approach the Court to set aside and rectify the unlawful approvals.
“We are dismayed that Knysna Municipality apparently has no interest whatsoever in the two High Court judgments. This does not bode well for those of us who expect our Municipality to act with due diligence when appointing officials and may lead to an erosion of confidence in the Planning Tribunal.
”Knysna Municipality should wake up and follow the example of the Nelson Mandela Metro and create a culture of accountability.”
In the meantime, KRA intends to take further steps to obtain a response to their questions relating to Mr. Petuna “In light of the new judgment, we shall be submitting further requests to the Municipality, including questions relating to the purchase of land during Mr Petuna’s tenure.”The statement concluded
But Petuna’s appointment is not the only one that has raised ‘due diligence’ concerns. Knysna’s current Municipal Manager – Dr Sinetemba Vatala – is still on full pay over a year after his suspension in Feb 2020. Dr Vatala was employed by Council in March 2019, despite news reports of disciplinary hearings and suspensions at his previous position as MM of Emalahleni Municipality in the Eastern Cape. Since his court case is ongoing, he is still officially the MM, so Knysna Municipality may not fill the position and has thus had to pay the salaries of a string of acting Municipal Managers whilst the case against Vatala takes its course. Dr Vatala’s case is set to continue on 22 April.
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Knysna Municipality said
“Kindly be advised that the High Court judgment has no bearing on the Knysna Municipality. With regards to the statements made by the Knysna Ratepayers Association, their assertion that we have not responded is not factually correct. In response to their claims in another local newspaper, the Municipality issued a full statement on 2 September 2019 confirming that Mr Petuna’s appointment was in line with proper procedures.”

Picture:  Knysna Station Commander Colonel De Wet is in the hot seat – As the community battles with habitual criminals, could he be the solution we have been waiting for?

The new SAPS Knysna Station Commander Colonel Francois De Wet, who took up the position on the 1st of March this year, cuts a dynamic figure and seems determined to make a difference in his new hometown. Whilst ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’, there are hopes that he might be the leader to take the local force to a higher level of service.
An invitation to local media to meet the commander felt like a step in the right direction, as did the Colonel’s no-nonsense attitude towards the challenges on his plate. He first promised to work alongside all existing structures – both formal and voluntary.
“It is imperative that SAPS works with the community, and interacting with local structures is key to this,” he reasoned. He then spoke about the prime importance of having an ear to the ground so that potential conflict can be avoided with early dialogue.
Colonel De Wet left no doubt as to his long-term mission – to put SAPS in its rightful place as the leading agency in the battle against crime in Greater Knysna. Initiating a more coordinated use of resources for the six sectors under his command, along with an all-round ethos of transparency in SAPS should go a long way towards this, he said.
Sedgefield’s volunteer crime-fighting groups have already engaged with the Colonel through the Community Police Forum, and Sedgefield representative Mike Hofhuis felt encouraged by the positive exchange. Indeed, though Sedgefield is currently experiencing break-ins on an almost nightly basis, he believes locals should not lose hope.
“The Community Police Forum addressed several pertinent issues relating to Sector 6 – Sedgefield and Smutsville – with Colonel De Wet,” Hofhuis told us, “We strongly believe that he will address these issues and, furthermore, we ask residents to please be patient a while longer so that the Colonel can address our concerns along with those of other Greater Knysna Sectors. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day.”
At the media meeting, when the Colonel was asked about the level of service delivery of the Knysna police force, he said that it is an all-important factor, and he would like to empower members of the public to point out instances where they feel SAPS has dropped the ball. To this end urgent service delivery issues may be reported to the shift commander on duty on 082 379 3411 – even if it is after hours. Normal crime reports, however, should be reported using the normal contact number of 044 302 6677.
When questioned about the ongoing frustration of perpetrators being arrested, taken into custody, and then released back into the community only days later, De Wet admitted that there are challenges regarding the follow-through of arrests. He will be engaging with the Justice Department to find a positive solution, and once this has been finalised the two offices will issue a joint statement.
Regarding the all-too-regular N2 protests, one of which landed on the Colonel’s plate within three days of his starting at Knysna, he said the experience he had gained in other towns had been that a hands-on, preventative approach often stopped such unrest from escalating.
“Community engagement is key and we would like to set up a mediation team to be more proactive in dealing with protest action that affects our service to the community,” he said.
Colonel De Wet warned that on his quest for effective policing in Knysna he might sometimes lock heads when initiating moves others might not be comfortable with.
“Sometimes we have to make unpopular decisions – that’s part of the job,” he smiled.
The 55-year-old Colonel does have an impressive CV. He originally joined SAPS on 26 June 1986, attending his basic training at the Pretoria Police Training Academy before his placement in Cape Town. Later, during his career in police management, he was deployed at various police stations in the Overberg. While holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel he acted as Station Commander for Hermanus and Kleinmond where he gained experience in working with external role players. During 2016 he was transferred to the Visible Policing Component at the Overberg Cluster where he worked until his recent promotion to the rank of Colonel at the Knysna SAPS.
As well as attending numerous internal courses within the police service during these three and a half decades, he has also studied for and passed a National Diploma in police administration and a Baccalaureus Technologiae: Policing.
Married with two sons, the Station Commander is happy that his family has relocated with him to Knysna.

 

Picture:- Newly vaccinated Sedgefield Clinic staff are ready to continue their fight against the COVID-19 virus for another 365 days if necessary.
From L-R: Sr Kombrinck, Maggie Prinsloo, Lynette Van Wyk, Sr Dorinda Zondag, Sheila Manyandela, Petro Koen, and in front, Nita Allsopp

by Melanie Baumeister
As the country slowly rolls out the vaccines against Covid19 for health care workers, Sedgefield has not been left behind. As a hotspot for the virus during the second wave it was with great relief that seven of the local clinic workers have been recipients of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations provided by the government.

The first to receive the jab are the high-risk workers and COVID testers. The vaccine is being monitored and the trial rollout will hopefully provide a foolproof blueprint for the next level of recipients to receive the inoculation sooner rather than later.
On 23 March last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that there would be a nationwide lock-down from midnight 26 March, in an attempt to combat the spread of the Corona Virus. At the time this eery new concept of disease control was only set to last 21 days, but of course, this was not to be.

The horrific roller-coaster ride that South Africa, and indeed the world, has been on since then will surely never be forgotten, and though we are currently on one of the more comfortable lock-down levels it is still very important to keep focused on delaying another wave for as long as possible, as the government (hopefully) gets on top of the vaccine rollout.

Senior researcher at CSIR, Dr Ridhwaan Suliman, says that the number of new Covid-19 cases in South Africa is increasing by 2% week-on-week, but this is due to small spikes in specific areas. Thankfully, at the moment the Western Cape is still seeing a very slight decline in numbers.
Looking back on how the last 365 days have affected our family lives, our economy, and of course remembering those who have perished during this pandemic, it would be good to take stock of what is important, and to each do our bit to slow the Corona spread.

When upliftment of the youth is the buzz phrase, and many are talking the talk with regard to ‘keeping the youngsters off the streets’, it is such great news when this becomes a reality – particularly one that is so very cool!
Quietly passing on his passion for his favourite sport is Slade West, the six-foot-plus surfer who has been shredding local waves since he was knee-high to a sea-slug. For years Slade has been running the Slow Town Surf Development Squad, teaching Smutsville’s youngsters to bravely take on the thrills and spills of a sport they previously wouldn’t have dreamed of learning.
Last weekend three of his young surfers were selected to represent the SWD District in a national surfing competition in Cape Town. In the picture is Chandler Koetzee who will be heading to the event along with club mates Jureldo and Sumien Armoed.
(See back page https://www.edgenews.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Issue_610.pdf for full story)

As the vaccine roll-out has started across the country, the Government has opened an online portal so that South African health care workers may register to be vaccinated.
It should be noted, however, that ONLY healthcare workers are eligible for this registration at the moment, NOT the 65+ age group, as a fake WhatsApp message doing the rounds has suggested.
There have been concerns that when the online registration DOES open for the next tier of recipients – that is the over 65s and those with co-morbidities – there will be some local residents in this group who do not have the necessary internet access or indeed the ‘internet savvy’ to negotiate the process themselves.
For this reason, the Masithandane NPO is setting up a simple system in advance so that they may assist such people in the registration process.. Those who would like Masithandane to register them on the Vaccine Database when it opens may send their details via WhatsApp to 082 092 4652 or email to vaccmst@gmail.com.
The information required for each person is their ID number, full name (as per ID), address, and contact number. This information will be kept confidential and certainly not shared elsewhere.
The Masithandane team will also endeavour to provide transport for those who are unable to make their way to the vaccination points when the time comes.
Over the last weekend, over 1700 vaccines were administered to health care workers in the Western Cape, which brought the total to 2756 vaccines administered in the province by 5pm on Monday.
Premiere Alan Winde says “This is the biggest vaccination drive in the province and the country, with a number of technical and logistical moving parts. We have been working hard to ensure that the rollout has been smooth and to make adjustments as required.”

(see video on https://www.edgenews.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/car-crash-shell.mp4)

A local driver and his passengers were very fortunate to escape with their lives last Friday evening when at three minutes to seven he ploughed his Fiat Panda through the plate-glass windows of the shop at Sedgefield Shell Petrol Station.
It has not been possible to ascertain how or why this happened, but video footage caught on the Shell Select Store’s CCTV camera shows that the vehicle was travelling at quite a speed. Indeed it broke through a steel barricade bar before crashing through the glass, wiping out several shelving units, and finally coming to a halt against the fridges on the far side of the shop floor.
Staff on duty were fortunately not in the vehicle’s path, and managed to avoid any flying debris. Clearly unsure whether this was perhaps the start of an armed robbery, they rushed out onto the forecourt seconds after the car came to a stop.
As soon as he heard what had happened Owner / Manager Ian Sparks wasted no time in getting to the scene and was exceptionally relieved to find that no one had been badly hurt in the carnage he found.

“The shop can be busy on Friday evenings, often with young children coming in with their parents,” he explained, “My staff said that earlier there had been quite a few people in the store, it just happened that when the crash happened there was a lull in trade.”
Though the car had Eastern Cape number plates, it has been ascertained that the driver is a local man, though his name is being withheld whilst investigation into the accident’s cause is underway. He reportedly sustained minor injuries, whilst his passengers – a lady and a young child – seemingly escaped unharmed.
Ian says that though unhurt, staff members were very shaken up. The shop itself looked like a war zone, and Ian and his managers worked through the night trying to get it back into some semblance of order – which was no mean feat.
“One of the shelves that the vehicle crashed through was stocked with charcoal, so there was soot everywhere,” he told us on Monday.

Sedgefield has had a few of these ‘drive-through’ incidents over the years. Two years back Dwayne Vorster, a car guard, sustained serious injuries when a driver went through the plate glass windows at the Pick n Pay Liquor shop, and a number of years before that the Total Service Station, ‘La Boutique’ shop, was also on the receiving end of a badly aimed vehicle.
But it seems that the Shell Garage may hold the record for such incidents. The Sparks family have been running the popular petrol station for forty-two years, and Ian remembers a time a couple of decades ago when a similar crash occurred on their forecourt!
(An ‘as-it-happened’ video of Friday’s ‘drive-through’ incident may be watched on The EDGE Face Book page).

Picture: Nursing staff of Sedgefield Clinic were performing up to 58 Covid tests a day during the peak period of the second wave.

There was a collective sigh of relief on Monday 25 January, when the Garden Route District Director of Health Zee Brickles announced that the district has shown a 43% decline in new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days when compared to 7-14 days previously, as well as a decline in hospitalisations.

Indeed, according to the Western Cape Health Department Covid dashboard, the Garden Route ‘Seven Day Moving Average’ (ie the average number of new cases per day for the last week) was sitting at 56 on 26 January, compared to 164 on 18 January, and 430 on 14 December.
Director Brickles was quick to point out, however, that though this percentage drop in Covid infections is sizeable, it certainly shouldn’t be taken to indicate that this wave is over.
“We are optimistic about the decline in numbers but remain vigilant in order to contain any cluster outbreaks through responding as early as possible. We have to maintain our momentum of surveillance and monitoring as a Department but also rely on the community to keep up with the protective behaviours (wearing a mask at all times in public, avoiding crowded spaces, avoiding spaces with poor ventilation and maintaining social distancing) that have brought about the gains which we now see,” he said

Increasing our protection through vaccination.
As vaccines arrive in South Africa (it is estimated that 1 000 000 vaccines will be made available for all frontline workers before the end of January), the Western Cape Government will play a stewardship role.
Administration of these vaccines forms part of the vaccine roll-out strategy which the Department is working on, including the logistics thereof, with the input of private sector roleplayers.
The roll-out will be executed in a phased approach, with the first phase targeting healthcare workers. The second phase will target essential workers, people in congregate settings, persons older than 60 years, and persons older than 18 years with comorbidities. The third phase is envisioned to target people older than 18 years who have not been vaccinated during the first two phases.