Quick thinking action by Sedgefield’s security partnerships has led to the apprehension and arrest of two armed robbers, not long after they had held two schoolgirls up at knife-point.

Just before twenty minutes to three in the afternoon of Monday 5 October, Juanita van der Westhuizen – a member of Sedgefield’s Community Orientated Policing (COP) – received a telephonic report about a robbery. She was informed that two high school girls had been dropped off on the N2 after school and were heading back to their homes in Smutsville along Aloe Street when they were approached by the two perpetrators.

The girls reported that the men had walked up to them quite casually and demanded that they hand over their phones and money threatening that if they didn’t, they would be killed. The perpetrators backed up this threat by brandishing knives. When the girls handed over their two phones and fifty Rand the men fled with their bounty in the direction of the N2.
On hearing the report, Juanita immediately alerted COP’s security partners – Phangela, Fidelity ADT and Suiderkruis – as well as the Sedgefield Police. As the search for the two men ensued she scoured the area from her own property situated at an elevated vantage point. Seeing two men who fitted the description she had been given by the girls, she was able to direct operations and eventually guide security vehicles to the perpetrators.
Security personnel swiftly intercepted both men on the N2 as they ran in the direction of Knysna. As they closed in and attempted to make an arrest one of the men pulled out a knife and threatened them. However, this did not deter them from bringing them both down. The perpetrators were duly disarmed and cuffed and, when SAPS arrived minutes later, both were arrested and taken into custody. They had in their possession both the girls’ phones and their money, as well as items of clothing presumed to be intended for ‘quick changes to avoid recognition.

It has since been ascertained that neither of the suspects is resident in the Greater Knysna area.
“This teamwork which resulted in such success once again proves the effectiveness of our COP and emergency services partnership,” commented Michael Simon of COP.

By Melanie Baumeister
On Saturday, the 5th of September, hundreds of Sedgefielders ignored predictions of inclement weather to gather along the national highway. Their mission – to be part of MOVE ONE MILLION – a global uprising of people standing in solidarity against crime and corruption in South Africa’s government, and the poverty, inequality and other adverse issues that are experienced daily by so many citizens of this nation.
Notwithstanding the seriousness of the issues at hand, the united local community put its usual festive spin on the occasion. The town was certainly not going to go quietly about the business of ‘being heard’, and in true African form there were Dj’s ‘laying down beats’ and some very enthusiastic dancing in the streets – all socially distanced and, for the most part, masked up for COVID.
The crowds were a real mixed bag, from all walks of life and all areas in and around Sedgefield. Standing proud in their black and white t-shirts (produced locally, and sold for no profit), waving their South African flags and displaying their placards proudly – the sense of patriotism was palpable, portraying the undying hope that the community has for a better future.
Under the mosaic heart on the corner at our only traffic lights, it really felt like people were determined to make a difference and bring about change! Especially when local Zumba ladies took to the tar to add some oomph with a performance of the dance craze ‘Jerusalema’.
And as the word had been put out by local organiser, Sonette Jacobs to stay within the law, all the highway traffic could pass through Sedgefield unhindered, and the supportive tooting of hooters and waving at local people lining the streets in their droves was definitely the order of the day. Local law enforcement was no doubt suitably impressed that they didn’t have to get heavy-handed. After all, what we all want is tolerance and peace, and Move One Million might just be the vehicle that’s going to get us there.
As well as the national drive, Move One Million has garnered significant traction amongst South Africans abroad, with expats from 16 other countries taking part, via social media. Many have posted photos from their towns where they are seen with their families proudly holding up the SA flag. The largest recorded gathering outside South Africa was in London, UK where more than 600 people got together for the cause. They and others abroad expressed their solidarity, showing that they still have a vested interest in the future of their home country.
With the founders of the movement steering the wave of resistance to corruption and crime, using all the platforms of social media, their manifesto is simple: ‘We are in a battle for the heart and soul of South Africa. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear for one more minute!’
We have been assured that MOVE ONE MILLION is not a fly-by-night group, and that 5 September was just the beginning. Indeed the next peaceful protest has already been set for the 24th of October, and those that can will be on the streets again – making some noise and taking up space, getting noticed for the plight of all of South Africa’s people.
Will Move One Million pave the way for a better future for all South Africans? Perhaps, but only time will tell. In the very least it served to unite an often divided people behind a common and most admirable cause.

Picture: The special ladies of Smutsville symbolically ‘releasing their troubles’.

Sedgefield’s own ‘Wonder Woman’, Marti Rooi took advantage of Women’s Day to host a special event for ladies in the community who she felt needed upliftment, encouragement and a whole lot of spoiling.
The event was very emotional, yet joyful, with entertainment, motivational speakers and advice from social workers doing so much to lift the spirits of the ladies present.
Andrew Solomons, who was called in to read a poem to the ladies, said that the day was so very special, and all who were present truly appreciated Marti’s selfless efforts.
He believes the biggest motivation of all is Marti Rooi herself.
“I am humbled by her endless passion for helping others in her community, especially those in need,” he said.

R2408 per month for Knysna Heads Property

It seems that the controversy worm has dug its way deep into the woodwork of Knysna Municipality – the latest upheaval being the Council’s decision to refurbish a municipal-owned flat on the Knysna Heads and rent it out to the current Acting Municipal Manager at what many are saying is a substantially reduced rate .
It was resolved during a Council meeting held online on 6 August, that the Municipality would perform cosmetic upgrades to its apartment at Senza Restaurant, at The Heads, and that the unfurnished apartment would be leased to Acting Municipal Manager Dr Scheepers at a market related rental amount. Dr Scheepers three month contract is set to expire on 12 September, though there is a chance that it may be extended for a further three months.
At the Council meeting, the DA councillors opposed the idea, with Michelle Wasserman citing that the rental is certainly not market-related and that spending R50 000 on refurbishment costs when the Municipality is already cash-strapped didn’t make any sense.
But although the DA spoke and indeed voted against it, the ANC, COPE and KUC coalition had the numbers, and the resolution was passed.
In a press statement issued later, Executive Mayor Ricky van Aswegen described the idea as a win-win situation.
“Aside from rendering the apartment habitable and capable of generating an income, it is important to maintain Council property,” he said, “The flat at Senza was one of two properties under discussion, and proved to be the least expensive option to spruce up right now.”
The statement explained that Dr Scheepers currently rents a flat in a block where three other residents have been tested positive for Covid-19. This has meant that Dr Scheepers has already had to self-isolate for a total of four weeks.
“While Dr Scheepers did work remotely during these periods of quarantine, it is important to have the head of the administration at the office,” the statement quotes van Aswegen as saying, “Renting an apartment separate from other people greatly reduces the risk of exposure to infected persons and the related potential need for self-isolation.”
“Council has a responsibility to maintain its properties and having someone living on-site will add an element of security to an otherwise deserted site,” it concluded.
But it seems others are certainly not seeing the situation as ‘win-win’. Indeed, when the statement hit social media via the Knysna Municipality’s Facebook Page, there was quite an outcry, with no less than 181 comments, mostly negative, made by residents of Greater Knysna.
Knysna Ratepayers Association made no bones about their views on the subject, publishing a post entitled THUMBS DOWN TO HEADS LEASE FOR KNYSNA’S HEAD HONCHO. On the same post, they shared a lengthy statement in Afrikaans which they attributed to Mayor van Aswegen. The statement suggests that the complaints against the leasing of the property were all racially motivated, and symbolised an arrogant and selfish attitude.
Incensed by the whole matter, Councillor Wasserman issued a statement about the matter, clearly challenging the integrity of the resolution and indeed the Mayor.
Here follows an edited version:-
On 6 August 2020 the Acting Municipal Manager, Dr Scheepers, requested that Council consider leasing to him the 86m2 flat on top of the old Senza restaurant at the Knysna Heads, for the duration of his employment with Knysna Municipality.
The motivations for the lease (to the Acting Municipal Manager) presented in the item to Council were that:
1. Leasing the property on a short-term basis would yield rental income for the Municipality; and
2. Having the property standing vacant exposed it to further vandalism and theft.
Despite the fact that the market-related rental given by DDP Valuers in February 2020 for the property in its present state was between R5500 and R6850 per month, Dr Scheepers felt that a suitable rental for the property (taking into account what two other Directors are paying to rent Municipal properties) would be R28 per square metre i.e. a rental amount of R2408.00 per month.
Another request made by Dr Scheepers was that the flat should be renovated.
The Democratic Alliance voted against approving the requested lease.
Our position was that:
1. Knysna Municipality cannot afford to spend this kind of money (R50,000.00 estimated, but probably more) on the renovation of this apartment for a Municipal employee.
2. A market-related rental should be paid for any municipal property. Our view was that R2408.00 per month is not a market-related rental and that an investigation needs to be done into the rental amounts being paid for other municipal properties by members of staff (R4650.00 cannot possibly, for example, be considered a market-related rental for a two-bedroom seafront property in Buffalo Bay).
3. Furniture should not be provided at the Municipality’s cost.
Although the COPE Mayor and the ANC and KUC councillors agreed with the DA that a market-related rental should be paid and that the apartment should not be furnished by the Municipality, they felt that it would be acceptable to spend R50,000 (or more) on renovations and they voted in favour of a lease to the Acting Municipal Manager on those terms.
Imagine my surprise today when I saw the Municipality’s Facebook post that gave an entirely new reason for the lease (The Acting Municipal Manager having to self-quarantine due to other residents in his block of flats testing positive for COVID -19)
Astonishing that this “reason” is given, despite the fact that it didn’t appear in the item to Council, nor in the Council debate on the matter.
Even more astonishing is that it completely contradicts an earlier Municipal Facebook press release (dated 13 July 2020) that said that the reason Dr Scheepers had to self-isolate for four weeks was that “a member of staff with whom they had close contact with on Friday developed symptoms”.
So, which was it, Mayor van Aswegen? The fact that three residents in Dr Scheepers’ block of flats had tested positive for Covid-19? Or because a member of staff with whom he had close contact developed symptoms? It can’t be both.
And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get more bizarre when a resident commented on the Municipality’s Facebook post objecting to the rental, Mayor van Aswegen responded with the following:
“I could nor remember that you vote for me. So why should I take your comment seriously.”
Please take note, Cllr van Aswegen, that when you accepted the nomination and were voted in as the Executive Mayor of Knysna, you became the mayor of everyone, not just for those in Ward 6 that voted for you.”

Between 12 noon and 2pm on Wednesday 22 July, several local eateries took part in the “Million Seats on the Streets” campaign lead by the Restaurant Association of South Africa. This was to show their extreme frustration regarding the effect on their industry of the stringent lockdown rules set out by the government.

The protest portrayed a visible image of the situation that many businesses in our mostly tourist-based economy are facing. With positive cases of the COVID-19 rising at such a rate that the Garden Route continues to be declared a ‘hot spot’, it is understandable that serious precautions need to be taken by everyone.
But many business owners have voiced concerns that some of the laws in place are both unnecessary and debilitating for their businesses, and if they remain unchanged the result will be closure and the collective loss of thousands of jobs along the Garden Route.

These businesses are calling for some of the lockdown laws to be relaxed, particularly with regards to the hospitality industry, so that they may continue to trade – albeit with strict safety precautions in place for all patrons and staff.

Whilst the ‘Seats on the Streets’ protest went off peacefully in Sedgefield and other smaller centres, in Cape Town it came face to face with the full force of the law. No doubt a sure sign that the powers that be are not considering the request for relaxation just yet.

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.