The netting of invasive carp in Groenvlei provided a rich source of protein for over 1000 people in Smutsville on Saturday 25 July, when just under 400kg of the fish was handed out to members of the community.
The carp were netted the night before by a team of Sedgefielders who have long been working on reducing the problem of the invasive carp that have had a devastating effect on the lake for the last few years. From the nets, the large catch was placed straight into the ‘Gift of the Givers’ refrigeration truck so that they could be frozen before distribution.
Recipients, who had been identified by the Municipal Social Services team, were exceptionally glad to receive the fish, and Gift of the Givers Southern Cape Volunteer Area Manager Mario Ferreira said that it made all the logistical work worthwhile just to see their reaction.
Working according to Government Health Department specifications, the fish had been tested by local Microbiologist Nico Alberts of Outeniqua Laboratory Services to make sure it was fit to eat – and it passed with flying colours.
10 of the fish- about 45kg – was given to Sedgefield Mobile Meals, and Chairman
Jim Mitchell was able to serve it up with vegetables to feed 80 families in need.
“We were worried as Carp has a reputation of being a muddy fish – but the feedback we got from the recipients was that they would like this to be a regular thing!” he reported back.
What really makes this a win-win project is the positive effect the removal of the carp has on the Groenvlei Lake itself.
Petro van Rhyn of Cape Nature says that Groenvlei is an important natural lake from both a conservation and recreational angling perspective. It contains two small indigenous fish species, the estuarine round herring and the Cape silverside as well as several species of alien fish.
“Carp were illegally introduced to Groenvlei in the 1990s,” she explained in an email, “Subsequently, their numbers have increased to such an extent that they cause great concern amongst scientists and conservationists.”
She went on to point out that feeding habits of carp cause habitat degradation (reduction in aquatic plants, increases in turbidity) by disturbing the lake bottom, clouding the water and thereby reducing visibility which hinders other fish from finding food. Carp also prey on the eggs of indigenous fish.
Cape Nature believes that the gill nets are an effective control method and that as custodians of Groenvlei, they partner with the local team of fishermen, Knysna Municipality and Gift of the Givers to supply the carp to the local community as a food source.


By Mark Dixon
Every now and then, Sedgefield welcomes some unique and rare ocean visitors to our shores – and even on to our magnificent beaches. June and July 2020 have been an exceptional period of unusual marine visitors.
In June, The Strandloper Project team was fortunate enough to see a Hawksbill Turtle while conducting a dive survey at Gericke’s point. Hawksbill Turtles are considered to be the second rarest marine turtle with an estimation of fewer than 8000 females in the world.
While they don’t breed on our coastline, they do migrate to feeding and breeding grounds in tropical regions and this one was probably taking a break at our iconic peninsula before heading off to some tropical island up north.
Another interesting find for the Strandloper Project crew was an African Penguin that had come ashore on the western side of Gericke’s Point. Every winter a few of these birds wash up either ill or dead on our beaches. This one was looking underweight and docile and was most likely suffering from exhaustion from the recent rough seas as well as avian malaria which they can contract mid-year.
The penguin was captured and taken to a vet for treatment and rehabilitation and will be released when healthy again.
Then, just when we thought that the season of incredible encounters was over, the Strandloper Project recently got a call to assist with a rescue of an immature Rock Hopper Penguin on Cola Beach. Jean and John Dickens found the little penguin while on their morning walk. It was roosting on the beach at the high-water mark, flanked by the towering fossil dune cliffs.
Good fortune was surely shining on the penguin because the couple’s son, John (Bobby) Dickens, is a marine scientist who has been conducting research on some Sub-Antarctic Islands, studying a number of Antarctic penguin species.
When he arrived on the scene, he was able to make a quick identification of the species, though due to it lacking its adult plumage, was unable to determine which sub-species it was. Considered a rare species of penguin in South Africa, SANCCOB reports that two or three do wash up on our beaches every year.
An initial assessment was that the penguin was underweight, but still feisty and capable of preening itself.
Once captured, it was taken to a SANCCOB sanctioned vet in Plettenberg Bay. An examination revealed that it was healthy, but had an injured leg and will be held in isolation for rehabilitation before being released. The need for being held in isolation it to reduce the chance of it contracting any disease from local penguins and other bird species and then transferring the disease to the Sub-Antarctic when it returns after release.
With the next cold front aiming for the Garden Route, we can’t wait to see what other marine creatures will seek refuge in our magnificent bay.


Whilst many locals were able to block their ears and pull the blankets up tighter when the recent blitz of Cape Winter weather blasted through the Garden Route, there were at least seven families in Karatara who were left devastated when their homes came crashing down around them.
According to a resident close to some of those families who lost their homes (one last week, and the remaining six on Monday morning between 3am and 4am ), officials from Knysna Municipality have been to speak to them and made a record of their names.
To make matters worse the electrical power has also been down in that area since Monday, and though ESKOM personnel have been to have a look at what has caused the failure, residents are still literally in the dark as to when they will be connected again.
At time of going to press the affected families had all had to make alternative accommodation arrangements whilst they wait to see what relief they can get from the local authority.


This visual of hope for Sedgefield was captured by Marine Ranger Jonathan Britton of SANParks.

As more and more businesses are allowed to open, there is indeed hope that somehow Sedgefield will return to normal after such an extended lockdown. But it is the ‘New Normal’ that has become a reality.

Whilst we are all able to enjoy more and more of this town’s wonderful offerings, the numbers of COVID-19 infections are increasing (see article below) and it is of utmost importance that we all abide by the social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitizing guidelines as prescribed by our health authorities. Even if you are not in agreement with these rules, please be aware that businesses may well be shut down if their customers do not comply, so their future is in everyone’s hands.

The following paraphrase of an anonymous social media post says it all. “As businesses start to re-open, please understand that many of them have just survived one of the hardest professional and personal challenges they have ever faced. Whilst they are excited to be back in business, the owners and their employees are still stressed, and they are not through the woods yet.

“Please do not go to these businesses and complain about all the new policies and protocols that they must put in place by law. Please accept changes that may have occurred due to lost revenue or less employees. The owners more than likely do not have the same business they had two months ago, and whilst most are doing everything they can do to adapt to the situation, there is no doubt that the ‘New Normal’ is very different to how they are used to doing business.

Be kind, be compassionate and have patience.” And please, please, wherever possible, support local.


New Executive Mayor Elrick van Aswegen (Elle Photography)

At a Special Council meeting held on 11 of June, long-serving Ward 6 COPE Councillor Elrick ‘Ricky’ van Aswegen was elected as Knysna’s new Executive Mayor.
This ended nine mayorless months for Knysna since Mark Willemse lost the executive position last year after being expelled from the DA Party.
Though van Aswegen’s election to Mayor was thanks to votes from the ANC and KUC councillors, there are many residents who are hoping that the politically well-seasoned ex teacher, who has been involved in Knysna politics since 1993, will make the perfect ‘middle-man’ between the DA and the ANC parties, and get Knysna moving forward in a positive direction. With the wards of Willemse and the recently resigned Peter Myers both awaiting by-elections, currently the DA and the ANC both have eight seats on the council, with COPE, KUC and ACDP each holding one.
In his inaugural Mayoral speech on Monday 15 June, van Aswegen emphasised that getting Knysna back on track as a town would be a major priority.
“A turnaround strategy for our financial woes is vital if we do not want service delivery to be affected. It is, however, important to note that we are not a bankrupt municipality, but are facing serious fiscal challenges.” He went on to say that the 2017 fires, the current COVID-19 crisis and poor financial decision-making had contributed to this situation, and that steps had already been implemented to contain costs and curb spending.
The new mayor also touched on the sensitive subject of corruption.
“Knysna Municipality and Knysna Council are not at the epicentre of corruption. There are appropriate legislation and legal procedures to deal with instances of alleged corruption. Council has instituted action against a number of officials on receipt of allegations. However, it must be noted that these procedures exist to not only punish the persons involved, but to allow those officials who may be falsely accused of corruption to restore their names to dignity. I will ensure that these matters are dealt with swiftly and in a procedurally correct manner.”
Regarding the disastrous effect that the COVID crisis has and will continue to have on tourism, the driving force of Knysna’s economy, the Mayor did not offer any quick-fix.
“We are in for a tough time,” he said “And it will take time to recover.” He added that he had set up a meeting with Provincial Treasury to explore ways they might assist in rebooting Knysna’s fragile economy.
But van Aswegen admitted that his most immediate priority would be to get Council’s approval of the budget for the next financial year. According to legislation this has to be done by the end of June, before the start of the new fiscal year but has not gained a majority vote at the last two council meetings for various reasons. “In light of the Municipality’s financial situation, we urgently need an approved budget so we can get down to business. If we do not, our poorest will become poorer and the town and this municipality will continue to suffer financially. As Executive Mayor, I shall act on my responsibilities and enter into talks with all parties to ensure we approve the Budget in time. We must all consider our responsibilities to our constituents and reach a consensus on this matter by Thursday.”
The Mayor ended his inaugural speech with a vote of thanks for deputy Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa who has been holding the fort for the last nine months, and a warm welcome to the new Acting Municipal Manager Dr Louis Scheepers, who had just begun his tenure.
Mayor van Aswegen will announce his Mayoral Committee in due course.
Asked for his thoughts on the new Mayor, Sedgefield’s Ward 1 DA Councillor Levael Davis was upbeat about the COPE Councillor’s election and wished him well, hoping that he would be the man to focus council members from all parties on a common goal.
“I would like to congratulate Cllr Elrick van Aswegen,” he said, “He has the political experience required to navigate Knysna through this challenging time. One thing I ask is that he does not forget about the value and significance of Sedgefield and that he will address our residents’ concerns. I wish him well.”
Cathy Weideman, Sedgefield’s Ward 2 Councillor did not respond herself, but forwarded comment from Dr Dion George, the DA Constituency Head for Knysna.
“The DA in Knysna congratulates Councillor Ricky van Aswegen, from the COPE on his election as the Executive Mayor of Knysna.
“Cllr van Aswegen and the ANC form the local government in Knysna and the DA will rigorously pursue its role as the official opposition. We assure the people of Knysna that we will be holding Councillor van Aswegen and the ANC to account.
“In our role as the official opposition, we will appoint shadow MMC’s who will closely monitor the performance of their counterparts in government and hold them to the high standards expected of them in service of all of the people of Knysna.”

Knysna also welcomes a new Acting Municipal Manager. Dr Louis Scheepers started on Friday 12 June, only a day after the controversial exit of the previous Acting Municipal Manager, Dr Michele Gratz.

Dr Scheepers has a wealth of experience in local government, beginning in 1992 when he started as a clerk with the then Eden District Municipality. After nine years holding various positions there, he went on to be the Municipal Manager of Saldanha Bay from 2001 to 2006. He later returned to Saldanha to hold the same position there from 2012 to 2016.

Dr Scheepers has also worked for three years as a Unit Manager for the Development Bank of South Africa, and as a consultant to the MEC for Local Governance from 2006 to 2008, during which time he was the administrator of the embattled Oudtshoorn Municipality.

During 2009 he was the Administrator for the Koukamma Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

From January 2017 to October 2018, Dr Scheepers held the position of Executive Director Area-based Service Delivery for the City of Cape Town.

After leaving this post he set up and ran his own consultancy company, the Lemon Tree Group (Pty) Ltd.

The doctor says he has a special connection to Greater Knysna, as prior to the amalgamation of municipalities in the late 90’s he was the secretary to the councils of Brenton on Lake, Brenton on Sea, Belvidere and Rheenendal.

He is currently an Adjunct Professor of the University of Western Cape School of Government.


So said Acting Municipal Manager Michele Gratz after tending her resignation out of sheer frustration.

Knysna Municipality was all but turned on its head in last Thursday’s ‘online’ council meeting, after the Acting Municipal Manager, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Ward 10 Councillor all tendered their resignations.

Acting Municipal Manager Dr Michele Gratz, who many believed would be the saving grace of the cash-strapped, embattled local authority, was the first to drop the bombshell. She addressed council members and officials with a prepared speech which, though presented in her matter of fact manner, had an obvious underlying charge of frustration and emotion.

Dr Gratz said that when she had been asked in February to come out of retirement and take on the role of Acting Municipal Manager of Knysna Municipality, she had neither wanted nor needed the job, but believed it her civic duty to help a municipality that was in trouble.
“With 20 years’ of experience in local government, I believed I could make a difference,” she said.
“I have given this job my all. I have worked seven days a week since the 18th of February. I have frequently worked through the night to resolve the many challenges that Knysna faces.”

She described how the COVID-19 lockdown had affected the momentum she had built up, but had not stopped her making a difference. Her actions, she said, should effect savings of R20 million for the local authority.
“Before my arrival, this municipality spent money recklessly,” she stated, “Expenditure was out of control.” Within her first month, however, she had been able to reduce the ‘stand by’ and overtime expenditure by 63% saving the municipality R1,2 million.
“If the lockdown had not hit, the finances of this Municipality COULD have been turned around,” she told the meeting.

Dr Gratz went on to outline the other challenges she had been faced with, including the process of investigating the allegations against the previous Municipal Manager, Dr Vitala, and numerous service delivery issues.

When she had first arrived the Collaborator System for correspondence and record keeping had been a shambles with more than 9000 outstanding items, many for more than eight months. She has since compelled staff to deal with these matters, and to date the backlog has been reduced to 2000.
“A culture of service delivery is growing,” she said.

Amongst numerous other problems she had dealt with, discipline had been another big issue in the Municipality. Now, she believes, staff understand that there are consequences for misconduct and low productivity.
But it was not any of these challenges that caused Dr Gratz to resign. She laid the blame for this at the feet of some internal officials working with “an external organisation with seemingly personal agendas and questionable mandate” which she said had constantly tried to dictate what happened at the municipality. She believed her refusal to toe the line and follow their instructions had culminated in the ‘Gratz must go!’ telephone call that the Deputy Mayor later informed her he had received the day prior to her resignation.

“I am not leaving to make a few privileged individuals happy,” she said, “ In fact, I would like to stay to expose their underhand tactics. However this Municipality is broken and paralysed. I cannot hold proper meetings because confidentiality is not respected. I may as well invite the external organisation to the meeting. The prevailing culture does not want to change, it does not want to help Knysna, it wants to help itself.”

“No one person can turn this Municipality around. It will need a team, and certain officials will have to be removed. The only future I see for this municipality is to go under the administration of the province.”
“If I thought I would be heard, and could make a difference, I would stay.”
“The silent majority will continue to suffer at the hands of a few.”

“Cry the beloved Knysna.”

Following her speech, Councillor Peter Myers and Chief Financial Officer Mbulelo Memani also verbally tendered their resignations.

Whilst Dr Gratz had not named the ‘Outside Organisation’ in her resignation speech, the outgoing Councillor Myers made no bones about revealing who it was in a scathing press release he issued the following morning.

“A number of individuals acting for the Knysna Ratepayers Association (KRA) have recently embarked on a campaign of bombarding the Acting Municipal Manager, Dr Michele Gratz with a never ending stream of emails, complaints and demands which seem to stem at least in part from the fact that one of their members was recently not reselected to serve on the municipal planning tribunal. The KRA has also targeted the CFO Mr Memani with its particular brand of unfair accusations and utter garbage leading to him announcing his resignation – there is only so much an individual can take. No doubt this discreditable group are planning their next hatchet job on anyone who dares to cross them and their friends in senior positions in the municipality. It would be interesting to know how much real support the KRA actually has amongst the public – not much I would venture.”

In the release he described Dr Gratz, as ‘the best municipal manager Knysna has probably ever had’, but was less complimentary of the KRA.

“In the past I have worked constructively with the KRA on numerous issues, but their recent focus on small minded and nasty attacks on those who disagree with them, reveal an organisation that has lost its way.”

“Knysna deserves to have a person of Dr Gratz’s skills, knowledge and energy to lead it in these difficult times and those who left her no alternative but to leave bear a heavy responsibility, and I hope will in time be held to account.”

The Knysna Ratepayers Association said that their committee is shocked by the accusations levelled at the KRA by the Acting Municipal Manager, and sent The EDGE a detailed response. It is, unfortunately too lengthy to publish in print, but will be available in full on The EDGE Facebook page.

It states in conclusion “Our committee has no problem with Dr. Gratz as Acting MM. In the absence of justifiable proof that these accusations against us are true, Dr Gratz owes the KRA and the ratepayers an apology, likewise if the allegations are proved to be true we will issue the same to Dr. Gratz.”

Sedgefield Ratepayers, meanwhile, have offered their support to Dr Gratz in a letter sent to Provincial Premier Alan Winde.

“Since taking office as acting Municipal Manager, Dr Gratz has performed remarkably, and in her relatively short time at the helm has managed to right many wrongs, as well as introducing the required measures to initiate the correction of the remaining shortcomings. Her valiant efforts were not appreciated by those responsible for the ruling chaos, and their vociferous opposition has resulted in her decision to resign from her post . This should be prevented if at all possible, as without her the Municipality will fail dismally.

SedgeRise – Looking to assist local Businesses

A group of concerned Sedgefielders from the business and private sector has come together to find ways to assist local small and micro businesses in their recovery from the COVID-19 lockdown.
A town where business was difficult even before the current crisis will surely have more than its fair share of embattled restaurants, shops and services desperately trying to find their feet after months of lost trade. The importance of their recovery to Sedgefield can not be overstated.
In order to initiate some sort of support for these businesses, over the next two weeks SedgeRise will be gathering information from the owners themselves. Whilst it is understood that the lockdown repercussions will mostly be of a financial nature, the group hopes that a collective ‘think-tank’ may provide suggestions of at least some other inputs that will ease the rocky road ahead.
To get the ball rolling, a ten minute online survey has been put together by the SedgeRise team, and all Sedgefield businesses are encouraged to take part. This survey, which is totally anonymous, can be found at
Creating a conduit for mutual support, making use of local intellectual resources, and collective buying and marketing are all areas that the SedgeRise team plans to explore to kickstart renewed growth and sustainability within the Sedgefield local business community.
They are hoping to get the buy-in from local residents and make positive use of the wealth of wisdom of retired professionals who have chosen Sedgefield as their home.
Please email if you would like to be sent a link to the survey, or indeed offer your input and be part of the SedgeRise ‘think-tank’.
And please remember to support local, wherever possible.


On Monday 18 May The EDGE received official confirmation from the Western Cape Health Department that Sedgefield had its first case of COVID-19.
Whilst as a matter of protocol the Department did not provide further information on the case, investigation and input from reliable sources has confirmed that the person who tested positive was a cancer patient in her 70s who had been brought from Cape Town to stay with her family in Smutsville. When she tested positive for COVID-19 she was taken to George hospital where she sadly passed away on Monday morning.
Her family members are reportedly in quarantine.
Nadia Ferreira, Principal Communications Officer of Western Cape Government Health for the Garden Route and Central Karoo Districts, says that whilst members of the community should not panic, they should continue to make doubly sure that they take all the necessary steps to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay.
“When facing a threat on a global scale, such as Covid-19, it is normal to feel anxious, scared, confused and overwhelmed. Even more so with the overload of information available and our numbers of positive cases increasing in the Province.
“It is normal to feel alone and frustrated. However, by limiting your exposure to other people, you can protect your family and yourself. If you must leave the house ONLY to go to work or essential shopping, wear a cloth mask, do not touch your face, stay 1,5m away from others, and wash your hands often.
“We should try to avoid all physical contact with other people so that we can limit our chances of becoming infected or infecting others. If we do have contact, we should ALWAYS observe distance and hygiene practices.
“However, this does not mean we should be unkind to others and not offer to help our friends and neighbours. It is important that we stand together and that we support each other, especially those who have tested positive for Covid-19. Anyone can be infected with Covid-19 and anyone can carry the virus, even without showing symptoms.
“The Coronavirus does not discriminate between age, gender, race, or disability. However, not everyone is at the same risk of becoming very ill. Vulnerable people are at higher risk. This is why it is so important that we take all the precautions we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from Covid-19. People who are especially vulnerable are those with underlying medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, lung disease, TB, and HIV.


Those who looked forward to going back to work on Friday 1 May – the date set for the end of the COVID-19 lockdown extension – were sorely disappointed, especially when the new ‘Level 4′ regulations seem to offer very little extra freedom except perhaps exercise. Worse yet, for most there was little to no opportunity to start earning again.
One only has to look at exchanges on social media, or listen to the hurried supermarket aisle conversations between stressed-out business owners to be overwhelmed by the sense of sheer frustration they are dealing with.
There is no right answer. On one side of the equation, most understand the necessity of keeping everyone at home for as long as possible – after all, we are all playing our part in a national effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve. But on the other side is an economic reality that grows more dreadful with each locked down day. Dreams collapsing, small businesses facing closure, even more unemployment than before, and no real relief in sight.
Whilst the greater Sedgefield community has diligently rolled up its sleeves to provide sustenance to those in need during lockdown, it seems that in the months ahead there will be an equally import mission – that of supporting – and indeed saving – local business.
Because of Sedgefield’s prime positioning in the Garden Route, residents have up until now been more spoiled for choice than they would be in similar sized towns elsewhere in South Africa. Where else in the world would one find such a plethora of restaurants, coffee shops, hairdressers, and so many other owner-run businesses, in a CBD that takes five minutes to walk from end to end?
Add to this mix our three very successful Saturday markets, which in pre-covid times brought visitors (and their wallets) from far and wide.
But the market stall holders now have to stay at home, as do most of the small business owners, and, of course, their staff.
With no respite in sight after more than a month of no income, any savings a small business may have had will have long been depleted, especially in Sedgefield where the economy has always been just beyond hand-to-mouth. People do not open a business in this town to make a fortune. They open so that they may live here.
We hope and pray that all our local businesses will be able to pull themselves out of the dark covid pit and start up again once they are allowed to trade, but this certainly isn’t a given.
What is a given, is that those who do manage to open are going to need all the support that local residents can give.
Never before has supporting local been so important. Every Rand will count. Every ring of the till will contribute towards local employment, local school fees, even putting bread on local tables. Small business has long been the pumping heart of the village economy, giving the residents a reason to stay and the tourists a reason to return again and again. Isn’t it worth our best efforts to keep it going?


Two well-known Smutsville residents are making it their mission to change the face of their community – by putting a mask on it!
Etzil Dirk and Andrew Solomons are determined to make mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing and social distancing second nature for their entire community, and so boost the local defence against the Coronavirus.
“You could call us COVID-19 Marshalls,” says Andrew.
Etzil – the founder of the Facebook group Smutsville Latest News (SLN) – says he and Andrew have been very concerned about the relaxed attitude locals have towards the disease that has locked down the entire nation. They believe it is time to get the message out there that residents need to take the level 4 laws more seriously.
“We see many children playing together in the street, and adults walking without masks,” he said.
“Smutsville is like a sitting duck for this disease,” Andrew added, “If COVID-19 should ever hit our community, it will spread to everyone before we know it.”
So the two plan men to change this trend and believe that making it the talk of the town may be the answer.
“Smutsville residents have stood together before, and we can do it now,” said Andrew, “If we can just keep flooding everyone with the message about why it is important to wear a mask, sanitize hands, and keep social distancing, surely people will join us in this campaign?”
Both men feel very strongly that the longer it takes for communities to obey the Level 4 lockdown rules, the longer the government will keep this level in place. This will mean no return to work for many, and so putting food on the table will become even more of a problem.
“We have to act now,” Andrew reasoned, “We have to do our part to get South Africa back to work. Food donations cannot carry on forever, because the money will soon run out.”
Etzil and Andrew plan to get the anti-corona ball rolling through the social media videos and posts that they are creating with a definite Smutsville flavour, as well as by putting up posters and handing out flyers. But they also want to spread the message through word of mouth, asking whoever they approach to speak to others too.
“We cannot talk to everyone,” Etzil said, “But if each person we talk to takes responsibility to tell five of their friends, the word will get out there quickly.” They are asking church and community leaders to join them in their quest.
“I am so serious about this. If it is the one thing in my life that I can see through to the end, then that is my mission!” promised Andrew.
The two men are grateful to those who have already assisted them in this drive, and gave special mention to Sedgefield Pharmacy for sponsoring hand sanitiser to be used at the soup kitchens where they will be educating the children fetching their food, Alastair Fraser who has picked up the cost of poster printing, and Bramwell of BB Security who has been behind them all the way.