DIALOGUE AT LAST

It is hoped that the meeting of Thursday 14 March, where Smutsville community leaders, Mayor Mark Willemse and other councillors finally sat around the table to hammer out their differences, will have a long-lasting, positive effect on returning Sedgefield to a peaceful state.
This after another housing demonstration had erupted into a riot, with the community citing that no meaningful progress had been made by local government on the issue of land in Smutsville. 39 people were arrested and taken into custody, and police are investigating a case in which a Groenvlei resident is alleged to have shot a Smutsville resident.
Clashes between residents of Smutsville, SAPS, Public Order Police Service (POPS) and even some residents of Groenvlei continued for almost 24 hours before consultation between the Knysna Mayor and community leaders finally resulted in a peaceful resolution.
This demonstration began on Wednesday evening, when a public meeting held at Smutsville Community Hall turned to chaos, with the hall emptying during a mass walkout almost an hour after the meeting had begun.
The purpose of the meeting was for Mayor Mark Willemse and other Council officials to give feedback on the issue of the shortage of land and housing in Smutsville. This after the seven-day limit given to them during a demonstration on 2 March, which in turn was a ‘follow on’ to the demonstrations in June last year.
With the hall jam-packed with local residents, not only from Smutsville but also other parts of Sedgefield, including committee members from the Sedgefield Ratepayers & Residents Association, there were many who couldn’t even get in.
When the Mayor, Ward Councillor Davis and Human Settlements Manager Mawethu Penxa began with a preamble as to how the housing process works, the community members began voicing their opinions that it was just more of the same stuff that they had been hearing since last year. Soon it was difficult for speakers to be heard above the noise – and some loudly voiced challenges from one or two Smutsville community leaders were all it took to rally the crowd and turn the meeting onto its head.
But whilst the mass walkout had surely already spoken volumes to the team at the ‘top table’, things got even uglier in the next few minutes.
The Mayor and Councillors Wasserman and Davis had stayed a while after the walkout, to try and answer a barrage of questions asked by some who had not left. But when they stepped outside just a few minutes later it was discovered that three tyres on Councillor Davis’ vehicle had been slashed. Furthermore, a fire was burning in the road blocking the exit from the community hall car park. The blaze was dangerously close to the Mayor’s car, and it was only after some careful manoeuvring that he could drive it safely away. Such was the mood of the crowd that Councillor Davis drove his vehicle away on the three flat tyres.
This seemed to set the tone for the night, and there was no doubt that a resurgence of last year’s riots was on the cards. Fires were lit in the middle of many of Smutsville’s roads and units of the SAPS Public Order Policing were called in to try and contain any unlawful behaviour. Clashes happened throughout the night and into the next morning. Residents of Groenvlei – particularly those on Begonia Street, watched in trepidation as fires were lit on top of the dune and burning tyres sent rolling down to the houses below.
Groups of youths gathered on the hilltop, hurling insults and threats and whatever they could physically throw at the houses below.
During the course of Thursday morning the riot flared up several times, with POPS members determined to keep it under control, and at least some rioters equally determined to create more chaos.
Then at around mid-afternoon, a group of community leaders decided to try a different tactic and called on the Smutsville residents to join a peaceful mass march into Sedgefield village. From eyewitness accounts the huge group stayed tight as it moved along the suburban roads, singing and chanting, and behaving peacefully. A Law Enforcement van drove slowly behind them.
The group moved onto the N2 at the traffic lights and stopped so that both directions of traffic on the National highway was blocked.
After spending some time at that intersection the protesters regrouped once again and walked down the dual carriageway to the Egret Road intersection, still blocking both eastbound and westbound lanes.
They were met there by a contingent of members from SAPS Knysna. Via loud hailers mounted on one of the vehicles the singing crowd was informed by Head of Visible Policing Colonel Gogwana that the highway would be opened, no matter what it took.
“Please get the women and children off the road,” he added.
Community representatives Bongani Dyani and Thersius Jones, along with several others stepped forward to challenge the Colonel, and a heated debate ensued. The protest leaders stated that they would not leave the N2 unless a meeting with the Mayor happened first. Meanwhile, the rest of the protesting throng sat down on the tar – determined not to be moved.
One of the SAPS members called Mayor Willemse on his cell phone. At first the Mayor was not at all keen to come to Sedgefield after the debacle of the previous night’s meeting, but eventually, it was arranged that he would meet with a small group of representatives, who could then report back to the community.
Further negotiations with the police then ensued, and the demonstrators eventually agreed to make their way on the left side of the highway to the taxi rank where they would await feedback from the community leaders. This meant that the police could at least open the Knysna-bound side.
Once again the protesters formed a tight throng and moved as a solid group, this time only using the left side of the dual carriageway.
Then it seemed that all hell broke loose. The booms of stun grenades and the crack of rifles shooting rubber bullets and launching tear gas canisters suddenly erupted and the orderly group shattered. Panicking people fled in all directions.
It is believed that this could only have been the result of bad timing. A POPS unit coming from the George side had come face to face with the marching crowd and, seemingly unaware of the agreement just made with the SAPS Knysna members, opened fire with whatever it took to quash a potential riot.
Water canons shot powerful jets of blue dye as the people ran, and POPS members chased them on foot, arresting those they caught.
Village residents living near the N2 darted into their homes, quaking at the commotion going on around them.
Meanwhile, up on the dune a different sort of terror was unfolding. A crowd of Smutsville residents had been standing on the top, watching the commotion on the N2. Among them was a thirty five-year-old carpenter Mervyn Stuurman and his girlfriend Rene Mars. Rene explained later that Mervyn had finished work early after injuring his finger, and, after being dropped at U-Save by his boss, had come to find his girlfriend to get the keys for the house they shared.
But as they stood there, looking down, a rifle shot suddenly rang out and a bullet thudded into the earth at their feet.
Everyone hit the ground in fear, wondering what was going on as there weren’t any police in sight. Moments later they stood up, gingerly.
“As soon as we got up we heard another rifle shot and dropped down again,” Rene told us. But this time Mervyn was crying in pain.
“When he lifted up his shirt we saw the blood,” she said, “He had been hit in the stomach.”
Weakened by his wound, Stuurman had to be carried down the hill, back into Smutsville, and then transported to the U-Save car park where he was fetched by an ambulance. He is still recovering in George Provincial Hospital, but reportedly no longer in the ICU.
It was later reported that a Groenvlei resident had aimed his firearm up the side of the dune and shot at the crowd. SAPS have confirmed that an attempted murder docket has been opened to investigate this incident.
That evening, in the old Sedgefield Council Chambers, a heated meeting took place, with several community leaders from Smutsville and Sedgefield facing off against Mayor Willemse, Councillor Michelle Wasserman who heads up the Planning and Integrated Human Settlements Portfolio, and Ward 1 Councillor Davis.
Arguments slewed back and forth for some time, but it soon became evident that both parties were at least beginning to listen to one another, and a degree of understanding slowly started rising to the surface.
Rodney Nay, who has been working alongside the Smutsville community through the ‘One Sedgefield’ movement, was also present at the meeting. “Finally it seemed that the anger was dissipating and a structured approach to the situation was being put on the table,” he said later.
This included the Municipality’s response to the four points that the Smutsville community needed to be addressed:- The availability of land for self-build homes, the program timeline for provision of formal housing, the long-term vision for human settlements, and the provision of basic services.
These topics were each covered, and a timeline for the construction of 220 subsidised homes presented, with construction starting within 10 to 12 months. When the meeting ended it seemed that at last the state of intense confrontation had been diffused, and after handshakes all round, the community leaders went back to the streets of Smutsville to give residents the feedback.
It had the desired effect, it seems. Fires were extinguished, roads were cleared of burnt debris, and exhausted demonstrators went to bed.
At last, peace descended, and it is hoped that residents living on either side of the dune could at least start shedding some of the intense stress of the previous 24 hours.

Sadly, the aftermath left behind by the riot has left Sedgefield reeling, and the community splintered in so many ways. Anger that so often accompanies fear has understandably boiled over and vented too freely on social media platforms. Whether the vehement racial outbursts from extreme elements of both Smutsville and the town itself will leave scars on the community spirit for which Sedgefield is so famous, remains to be seen.

THE BURNING QUESTION OF LAND

On Monday morning Smutsville was once again turned into a hotbed of anger as members of the community took to the streets to vent their frustrations regarding the lack of housing and land to build on. This, they claimed, was because no reasonable time frame had been given to them by the municipality since the uprising in June last year.

“Promises have been made, but not kept by the municipality,” one resident insisted. “We don’t even need houses, we will build our own. We just need land to build them on.” said another.
Though the demonstration was not as lengthy or indeed all-encompassing as the 15 June riots of last year, the sound of stun grenades and rubber bullet gunfire filled the air once again, along with the taste of teargas and the acrid smell of burning rubber.
It is believed that the Public Order Police, who hail from Oudtshoorn, had got a whiff of what was going to happen, because it wasn’t an hour after the first tyres were set ablaze on Oestervanger Street outside the old U-Save shopping Centre, that they appeared in force.
According to witnesses on the ground, it was just after 1am when residents first saw the tyre flames. By 2am the armed and armoured Public Order Police were already on the streets, chasing those involved in lighting these fires. These scenes carried on through the predawn hours of the morning.
Ex Ward 1 Councillor Irene Grootboom said that she was awoken soon after 4am in her home, also on Oestervanger Street, by her grandson’s screaming.
“I got up to find three cops holding down one of my family members in the kitchen,” she told us, “When I shouted at them, I saw one of them took a 9ml pistol out of his holster, then he put it back. My screaming woke my daughter Charmornay, who also rushed out and shouted Why are you doing this in front of my son.” A cell phone video of this whole incident was going ’viral’ amongst the community members by the time the sun came up, and Irene said that her children were still traumatised hours later.
But by 7am it seemed that things had mostly calmed down, with only the occasional clashes between the community and the ever-present ‘POP’s members. The original fires were extinguished, but others were lit on other roads in the crowded suburb.
Community members were out in force, though obviously wary of the uniformed men determined to bring Smutsville back to order. As crowds gathered many were asking why demonstrations in other areas such as Keurhoek and Nekkies had produced positive results, yet they were still awaiting a meaningful response from the municipality.
The arrival of Knysna’s Acting Municipal Manager Phumla Makoma and Head of Disaster Management and Social Services Richard Meyer seemed to calm things down somewhat, especially when they engaged with Councillor Davis and community representatives Bongani Dyani and Thersius Jones. One of the leaders of the ‘POP’s team also joined the conversation.
Eventually, however, the municipal officials were persuaded that it was the Executive Mayor that the community wished to deal with. “It’s a must issue,” said Dyani, “We really need to have the Mayor here.”
There were several tense minutes of waiting as Councillor Davis battled to get hold of the Mayor, who was in a meeting at the time. Another fire was built and lit further up Oestervanger, and the POPs crew, who had seemingly been cool, calm and collected for the past hour, immediately moved forward to disperse the crowd gathered around it.
When Mayor Mark Willemse arrived there was chanting and singing, but it was more than evident that this was not in an effort to make him feel welcome to the volatile situation. Before he was given the opportunity to address the gathered crowd, both Jones and Dyani spoke through the loud-hailer, followed by Councillor Davis.
“This is not a political gathering,” said Dyani, “We just want to know the progress of the housing promises.” He continued “We are not afraid to go to jail, but we must not get involved in violence.” He also suggested giving the Mayor and Councillor a week’s deadline to give them positive feedback, but only a week. “If we do not get a response in seven days, we will mobilise the whole community,” he said.
Councillor Davis then addressed the crowd, attempting to outline the progress he believed had been made with the housing plans. But it was difficult for him to be heard over the angry baying of the community, who shouted down his efforts to address them.
When Mayor Willemse spoke he too battled to keep the community from talking over him. The clamour rose to a roar when he mentioned that the process of planning and building subsidised housing could take five years. His attempts to explain that the housing planned for Smutsville was in an advanced stage of that process fell on deaf ears. When the Mayor, seemingly as frustrated as the crowd, turned to walk back to his vehicle an uproar ensued and, no doubt sensing things might take a turn for the worse, the Public Order Police members advanced forward, with one of their armoured vehicles swinging in to park in front of the crowd.

A period of intensity ensued, filled with frustrated shouts of the community members, especially seeing the armed POPs personnel stepping forward again. Fortunately no-one from either side took it a step further, and eventually, the shouting subsided a little, though it still was patently obvious that the Mayor, who had turned back to address the crowd, was not going to get a word in.
Eventually, Bongani Dyani took the loud-hailer and again suggested to the crowd that the councillor and mayor be given a week to produce a timeline for Smutsville’s housing plan.
As the community ruminated over this, the Mayor was given the opportunity to speak again. He said that whilst he understood their frustrations, procedures had to be followed when it came to low-cost housing.
“Councillor Davis is working very hard to get these processes to happen as quickly as possible,” he said, adding “Last year in June I made a commitment that we would ensure that all the necessary processes would happen. Please understand we work according to conditions. This is a National and Provincial Government matter. They have to give us a clear mandate to proceed. The municipality doesn’t pay (for housing). We appeal to you to be patient – I understand that it takes a long time.”
“All I can do is ensure that the process happens. We do the best we can with the limited resources that National Government gives us. That is where we are now.”
Once again he was bombarded with shouts from the crowd, and Dyani took the loud-hailer to calm them down. He then responded to the mayor’s address, saying that the community knew full well about processes, but that they couldn’t be told that there is no time frame.
Thersius Jones then spoke. “We fully agree with what you say,” he said through the loud-hailer, “But last year Bonginkosi Madikizela told us that we can take the land on the dune. He didn’t say wait. He said build.” Jones was referring to the site visit paid by the Western Cape Minister of Human settlement soon after the June 2018 riots.
This once again stirred the crowd up to a crescendo, and it took some effort for Dyani to calm them down so that he could be heard. He repeated his earlier call to give the authorities a week to produce a timeline but made no bones about what should be done if this was not forthcoming.
“Let us not even threaten them with anything,” he said, “Let us get answers. If we don’t get answers that we are satisfied within seven days, we occupy the land.”
With the departure of the Mayor a few minutes after 10am, the crowd slowly dissipated, though still in heated discussion.
With so many born and bred Smutsville residents simply having nowhere to build, and in far too many cases several generations of the same family having no choice but to live on the same small property, the dire lack of housing land is always going to be a very sensitive issue for the municipality, and indeed the community of Sedgefield at large.

BIRD DIE-OFF IN RONDEVLEI

On 8 February 2019, residents of Rondevlei reported a serious situation involving the local water birds. Two young brothers Che and Jem (surname withheld at mother’s request) who live in close proximity to the water were bringing home dead and ailing birds which they had found on the edge of the freshwater lake close to their home.
Over the course of the next five days, the boys found two plovers, three black-winged stilts, a spoonbill, a red-knobbed coot, two spur-winged geese, an Egyptian goose, a juvenile red-knobbed coot and a kiewiet amongst other affected birds. The intrepid young nature lovers nursed the sick birds to the best of their ability, making sure that they were fed and hydrated. While they managed to save some of their charges, there were some that didn’t make it.
The incident was immediately reported to SANParks and rangers responded accordingly to investigate. According to SANParks, they collected 10 dead birds at the beginning of February and another four since then. Marine Ranger Jonathan Britton says that SANParks is aware of the situation and will monitor it by taking regular water samples to investigate and get to the bottom of this phenomenon. He said that though an unexplained death of even one bird is one too many, the number of birds that have been found is not enough to cause widespread panic.
The boys taking care of the birds are very much in tune with their natural environment and have taken a personal interest in rescuing as many birds as possible. After she had consulted with local marine biologists and ornithologists, their mother said that the consensus on the cause of this event is Avian Botulism, a serious neuromuscular illness of birds caused by a toxin. SANParks have concurred with this theory, though they are still running tests for final confirmation.
Says Britton “Over the last four years Avian Botulism related mortalities have been confined to Rondevlei and Langvlei and have not been observed in Swartvlei or the Touw River. This is mostly during summer, and is the result of a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium bacteria which occurs naturally and is widespread in wetland sediments, locally and internationally.
“Last year we also observed some mortalities as a result of Avian Influenza.
“Avian Botulism is not a threat to humans unless the dead birds are eaten raw. Strangely enough, this same toxin (from clostridium bacteria) is used cosmetically in Botox treatments.”
“It is important to note that some birds that may appear to be ill because they are struggling to fly away are often just moulting. It takes a trained eye to recognise the symptoms of Avian Botulism, which includes paralysis of voluntary muscles and inability to hold head erect and sustain flight.
“Signs of Avian Influenza include: Neurological signs (head tilting, twitching, incoordination), corneal opacity (eyes appear white/milky) and lethargic/comatose behaviour.
“We are grateful that the National Park has caring residents and neighbours who reported this incident, and for the caring nature of our young Rondevlei residents.
“It is important to report concerns to us before intervening so that we can confirm any of the above symptoms (or any other symptoms that don’t appear normal). This will help to avoid the unnecessary removal of birds that may only be moulting from the RAMSAR wetlands, and reduce our levels of interference in any other natural ecological processes in this important bird habitat.
“On a weekly basis Rangers patrol all the lakes and collect bird carcasses if there are any and then destroy the carcasses by burning them. All records are kept on a database by our Scientific Services Department and we keep in contact with the State Vet and other relevant State Agencies on the topic.
“Reports were also noted about road verges along the Lakes being sprayed with herbicide, we have initiated discussions with the relevant departments to review this road maintenance practice around the Lakes.
Langvlei, Rondevlei and Eilandvlei are part of a RAMSAR Convention site. In other words, a wetland of global significance as declared by UNESCO.
The contact number for SANParks is 044 877 0046.

NO BAIL FOR SEAN KELLY

Wednesday 13 February saw the start of the bail hearing for Sean Kelly (51) – the man charged with the murder of Noreen Hampson, of Sedgefield, on Saturday 2 February 2019. Both were residents of Marigold Street in Groenvlei.
Before the hearing began Sedgefield residents joined others outside the Knysna Magistrates Court in silent protest against bail for Kelly, who many claimed was a danger to society on account of his violent behaviour on the day of the murder, when he allegedly attacked several other people aside from Mrs Hampson, as well as smashing vehicles and other private property.
As the Investigating Officer Sergeant Vusumzi Xokozela arrived at court he was met by Sedgefield COP representatives Mike Hofhuis and Michael Simon, who presented him with a petition which included signatures from 1880 locals. They also handed over print-outs of an online petition signed by over 2500 people.
Knysna Magistrate Zukiswa Hans presided over the case, with Attorney Zulile Mqulo acting for the prosecution.
A number of Sedgefield residents filed into the courtroom, including some who lived near the victim, and others who had attended the scene and witnessed Kelly’s violent actions first hand.
At 12.09 am Sean Kelly was called and was escorted into the courtroom, staring into the gallery as he made his way to the dock. He was immediately admonished by Magistrate Hans for doing this. When Kelly replied that he was looking for members of his family she was adamant. “This is not a fashion show,” she said, “You don’t do that.”
Kelly waited, seated in the courtroom for about 40 minutes whilst other cases were heard. When his case was finally announced his Legal Aid representative asked that it be held over until 2pm as her offices wanted a senior practitioner to handle the hearing. The Magistrate agreed, but on return a further postponement was requested in order that Kelly’s more senior Legal Aid representative, Pieter Terblanche, could be briefed.
The Magistrate reluctantly agreed to once again postpone the hearing. This time to 8.30 the following morning.
Due to various delays, the case only began at 11.10 the next day, at which time Terblanche announced that Kelly had not passed the ‘means test’ necessary to qualify for legal aid. Kelly then confirmed his decision to handle his own bail hearing without the assistance of an attorney. Magistrate Hans cautioned him that as it was a bail hearing, he did not have to answer questions on the merits of the actual case as whatever he said could be used against him when the case is heard.
After taking the oath Kelly began outlining his testimony to the court.
He informed the court that he is single, and has been resident in Sedgefield for four years, living with his dog and cat. His father is deceased and his mother living in Joburg, though he no longer has a relationship with her. He has a BA Law degree and lived in the United States from1997 to 2014, where he worked in the building industry. He is currently unemployed.
As requested by Magistrate Hans, Kelly then went on to provide reasons why he believed the court should approve his application for bail.
Kelly explained that his two biggest concerns were his home, which he felt was in danger of vandalism or a break-in, and his animals. When speaking about his dog and his cat, the 51 year old man became quite emotional, saying that he regards them as ‘spiritual beings’ both of whom are very important to him. At one stage he began crying, and, after offering him some water, Magistrate Hans paused proceedings and allowed Kelly to sit whilst she quickly dealt with two or three minor cases on the court roll.
Twenty minutes later Kelly proceeded with his application. He said he had been alarmed when, whilst in custody, he had been asked to sign a form relinquishing rights to his dog, which he believes to be illegal. He said he should be given bail so that he can be reunited with his animals, and should he be found guilty, he can find them homes of his choice.
A third reason Kelly offered was that he needs to get his finances in order. Apart from gaining access to funds that he claimed he has in America, he also wished to make contact with his brother in Australia to ask him for assistance.
He continually assured the court that he was no danger to society.
“If I am released on bail the plan is to go home and stay at home, just going out to get food,” he said “I will face the music. I will not run. I have a cat and a dog who are very important to me.”
Kelly then informed the Magistrate that he intends to plead ‘not guilty’ to all the charges, adding that he is innocent until proven guilty, and that he will not be a flight risk as his passports have been taken away from him.
When his testimony was concluded, Prosecutor Zulile Mqulo began his cross-examination by saying he could not fathom that it could be acceptable for someone charged with murder to be released on bail ‘to look after a dog and a cat’
When he asked Kelly about his violent behaviour during his arrest, Kelly chose to remain silent.
The Prosecutor pushed further, saying that guns had had to be used on the day of his arrest. Kelly said that the first responder had arrived and threatened him with a gun, saying “I am going to kill you” then shot at him numerous times. Kelly then accused one of the neighbourhood watch members of trying to run him down, saying that he will open a case of attempted murder against him.
When the Prosecutor pointed out that it was because Kelly was still brandishing the hammer that force had to be used to overcome him, Kelly calmly replied that the version of the story the Prosecutor had was not the truth, and that he had, in fact, reacted in self-defence. He admitted, however, that he had resisted arrest, and that he had been carrying a hammer.
“That is why you are a danger to society,” the Prosecutor said. When Kelly began to reply to this, Magistrate Hans reminded him that if he chose to answer questions on the merits of the actual case, whatever he said could be used against him when the case is heard.
Kelly said that the Prosecutor was lying – and telling ‘bogus’ stories.
Prosecutor Mqulo then put it to Kelly that key witnesses to the case were fearful of being approached by him should he be released on bail. He said that the Investigating Officer on the day had reported that he had never seen such aggression.
Kelly once again stated that his actions had been in self-defence and that he would be opening cases of attempted murder against a few of those who were on the scene.
“Since my arrest I have been well mannered and well behaved. I have been taunted but have turned the other cheek,” he concluded.
Then the Investigating Officer on the case – Sergeant Xokozela – was called to the witness stand.
He gave testimony as to what had happened on the day of the murder, explaining that the accused had attacked his victim with a hammer whilst she was on a ladder in her own property. A neighbour had called the police, but when people arrived to try and help her, Kelly came out of his house and went for them too. He had also attacked and damaged several vehicles. He said that eventually, the accused had to be brought down with rubber bullets.
The Sergeant intimated that bail should not be granted as the accused was dangerous and a flight risk, adding that Kelly had shown violent tendencies even before the actual murder took place, threatening a number of people including members of his own family, and neighbours, who he had allegedly warned ‘Watch out – you are next’
“I have spoken to members of Kelly’s family and they feel threatened by him,” he said, saying that one of them had reported him to the police and applied for a protection order against him.
“I have also spoken to his brother who said that he is a violent person,” the Sergeant reported to the court.
He then brought into evidence the Sedgefield Community Police Sub-Forum’s petition against Kelly’s bail.
Cross-examining the witness, Kelly asked the Sergeant if he acknowledged that people do lie to the police at times. “Not often” was the reply.
Kelly then requested to submit to the court that the neighbours who suggested that he had threatened to kill them on the day of the murder were lying. He became very defensive regarding his family, saying that accusations that his cousin had taken out a protection order against him were false as he hadn’t seen her in a very long time.
He also claimed that his other family members were lying too, and that he hadn’t seen his brother since 2010. “I found out that he had been having sex with my mother!” He blurted out, surprising everyone in court.
Kelly’s vehement response to the signed petition against his bail brought even more murmurs of shock from those in the court.
“Your Honour I have been a resident of Sedgefield for four years. It is a town full of churches and full of evil,” he said. Then he went on to claim that parents ‘pimped’ their children on the streets on Sundays whilst people were in church. Then, quite out of the blue, he dropped a bombshell, boldly stating that the disappearance of the Norwegian girl (Marie Ostbo, who disappeared in April last year) had not been perpetrated by one person, but the entire community.
On a defensive roll, Kelly then began verbalising a number of incidents in which he felt he had been victimized, until Magistrate Hans stopped him, and asked if he believed the whole of Sedgefield was evil except for him. As the court was about to be adjourned for lunch, she cautioned him that after the break he should get to the gist of his statement, rather than relating different stories.
By 2.15 Kelly was back in the dock and continuing his reasons for the granting of his bail application.
He said that a defamatory letter had appeared in The EDGE Newspaper about someone matching his description and thereafter, once he responded to the letter, a whole lot of suspicious activity had gone on around his house, with people forming a ‘witch-hunt’ against him.
As a final submission, he said he should be granted bail because he will keep to himself and not make contact with other community members.
He then dropped another bombshell on the court by confessing to the crime.
“I admit right now before this court that I did kill Noreen,” he said, adding “But it was not murder. There was no premeditation whatsoever.”
After a short rebuttal from Prosecutor Mqulo, Magistrate Hans summed up the case, explaining that all the reasons Kelly had put forward as to why his bail application should be granted had been taken into account in the court’s decision-making process, as well as those submitted by the prosecution against the application.
She said that the numerous instances of violence during the course of the crime, as well as the alleged threats of violence against the neighbours, and the fact that by Kelly’s own implication, the community has ‘a problem with him’, ticks many of the boxes that need to be ticked in refusing a bail application, notwithstanding his admission of guilt. Also the petition signed by 1800 people had to be taken into account and had sent a message that the court could not ignore.
“Only on these grounds – I don’t even need to go into the others such as a threat to public peace and security – your bail application has failed,” She proclaimed.
With that done and the court date for his trial set for 29 March 2019, Kelly was remanded in custody.

BRUTAL MURDER SHOCKS SEDGEFIELD

Sedgefield was shocked to the core on Saturday 2 February when news broke of the murder of Noreen Hampson, a well-known Sedgefield resident of Marigold Street. In a scene fraught with violence that erupted in the normally quiet Marigold Street, it took huge efforts by Public Order Police and SAPS members armed with rifles and rubber bullets, as well as a number of the COP and Neighbourhood Watch volunteers to bring down and incarcerate the man who was responsible. He has been identified as Sean Kelly (50), also a Marigold Street resident.

The following is an account of the events as they unfolded according to witnesses who were on the scene.

It was just after 6 o’clock in the evening when the alarm was raised by a neighbour who first alerted the police and then the community policing team, saying that the lady at No. 16 Marigold was being attacked. The caller recognised the attacker as Sean Kelly.

The first responders (volunteers of the local community policing team who have requested that their names be withheld) got to the scene within five minutes and found the victim lying face down inside her property. SAPS had not yet arrived.

One of the team’s first aiders assessed her, quickly realising that although she was alive, her injuries were exceptionally serious. The Fire Department was immediately contacted via radio, with a request to urgently send their emergency first aid response vehicle and to call for an ambulance and SAPS to attend the scene urgently.

The response vehicle arrived and the medics began assessing the victim whilst the community policing volunteers proceeded to cordon off the area.

Then suddenly all hell broke loose.

Sean Kelly rushed out of his property and attacked one of the community policing team members who was parked nearby, striking him on the head with what was described as some sort of long shafted hammer. There was much shouting as chaos ensued, with two other volunteers running towards the attacker to try and ward him off.

Kelly retreated back into his home, only to reappear moments later, shouting a tirade of abuse and once again wielding his hammer. This time he made a rush for the medics who were still trying to assist the victim. When they fled in all directions he zoned in on one of the team, chasing him around the fire vehicle, before stopping to smash its windows and those of other vehicles.

According to witnesses, the man seemed determined to stop anyone from helping his victim. Being unarmed, they all had no choice but to retreat and watch him as he started pulling equipment out of the fire vehicle, still shouting and swearing.

Then SAPS arrived, but this did little to calm Kelly down. He stormed out and attacked another community policing volunteer who was sitting in his vehicle, striking him with several blows and smashing the car’s windscreen. He then made off back into his home.

The chaos continued unabated over the next hour as Kelly kept dashing in and out of his property, swinging several different weapons and attacking the vehicles of those on the scene.

As the public heard of the commotion, curiosity brought them out into their gardens, and frantic messages had to be sent out to WhatsApp groups, urging everyone to stay indoors.
“It really was a dangerously volatile situation,” one of the volunteers later said.

Meanwhile, an ER24 ambulance had arrived, but paramedics were unable to get to the victim as Kelly continued threatening harm and wielding his weapons. Eventually, SAPS fired warning shots, which sent him into hiding long enough for the paramedics to reach the victim. Unfortunately, she had already succumbed to her injuries.

The Public Order Police and several more SAPS members arrived at approximately 19:25, whilst Kelly was inside his house. Moments later he charged out onto the road, swinging yet another home-made weapon at the uniformed men. They opened fire with rubber bullets, hitting him several times. He dropped to his knees briefly, then stood up and retreated back inside.

But this time he was followed by the police – with riot shields to ward off his blows.

A short while later Kelly was brought out in handcuffs, loaded into a SAPS vehicle and taken off – his tirade of abusive language continued unabated, as it had throughout the ordeal.

What drove Kelly into perpetrating such a violent act is obviously a matter for the police and courts to investigate. However, the evidence gathered so far shows that the man’s behaviour pattern had become more and more aggressive in recent months, particularly in the last fortnight.

Indeed in the last edition of The EDGE we published a letter by a man who claimed he had been verbally abused by ‘an English-speaking white male’. Though his name hadn’t been mentioned in this letter, Kelly retaliated, arriving at The EDGE offices with a letter of response, handwritten and signed by himself. Even as he delivered it to a neighbouring office (The EDGE had not yet opened), he launched into a tirade of abusive language at the lady who he handed it to.

The letter itself was so full of rage, prejudice and threats of violence, that copies of it were sent to Sedgefield’s Community Orientated Policing (COP) to be put on record.

Meanwhile, a steady stream of people who had also been on the sharp end of Kelly’s verbal abuse began coming forward, and plans were put in place to use this information to get him investigated by SAPS, because those who had come into contact with him feared he might be dangerous.

But nobody could ever have imagined that his vicious verbal attacks could escalate to such violent physical levels so quickly.

When contacted, Community Orientated Policing (COP) Chairman Michael Simon said that due to the sensitivity of the case, they could not provide any official comment.
“We would, however, like to offer our sincere condolences to the Hampson family on behalf of all Sedgefield’s community policing organisations. We would thank the emergency services, including SAPS, the Fire Department, ER24 and Dr JC Venter for assisting on this tragic day,” he said.

According to a report from SAPS, Kelly appeared in the Knysna Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 05 February 2019 on counts of Murder and Malicious Damage to Property. His bail hearing was set for 13 February, but Sedgefield’s Community Police Sub-Forum is gathering signatures on a petition to oppose any bail application he might make. They have left petitions for signature at La Piazza, Build It and The EDGE.

AND DEMI SAID YES

Sedgefield’s very own Miss Universe (and, of course, Miss South Africa) Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters is engaged!

The twenty-three-year-old South African beauty answered with an ecstatic “Yes” when boyfriend Tim Tebow, a famous former professional American football quarterback, popped the question at his family farm in Jackson, Florida.

Tim, 31, shared the news on his Instagram page.
“Thank you for saying YES and making me the happiest man in the world. You’re the love of my life, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you”

Demi-Leigh also shared snaps from the special moment, saying: “Any dreams I’ve ever had, you’ve exceeded them all! I love you and I can’t wait to spend forever with you!”

Witnesses say it was like a scene from a fairytale when Tim went down on one knee. He had spared no effort in making the proposal as romantic as possible, even going so far as to secretly fly both sets of Demi’s parents from South Africa to share the special occasion. Mom and stepfather, Anne-Mari and Johan Steenkamp (from Sedgefield), and Dad and stepmother, Bennie and Elzabé Peters were all overjoyed to be there.

To top it all, Tim also flew out some of Demi’s closest friends and asked her favourite South African muso Matthew Mole to perform on the day.

And, of course, there was the exceptionally impressive 7,25-carat diamond ring…

It is said that the charming young man told his blushing fiancée-to-be “This ring is flawless, just like you”…. And that was the moment when Matthew Mole stepped out and serenaded the happy couple with “The Wedding Song” which is (naturally) one of their favourite numbers (give that Tim a Bells!).

Demi and Tim have been dating since she moved to the States to fulfill her Miss Universe duties soon after she was crowned. She confirmed the relationship publicly for the first time in July 2018, and Tim visited South Africa in December to meet her family.

WATCH OUT CRIMINALS

SMUTSVILLE WOMEN HAVE DECLARED WAR ON BURGLARS…. AND OTHERS

(Names of individuals have not been used in this article for obvious reasons.)

A group of Smutsville residents, mostly women, are baying for action from the authorities, suggesting that if something isn’t done soon about the criminals preying on their homes and making their communities unsafe, they will be taking the law into their own hands.

On Monday morning The EDGE was summoned to meet with over thirty ladies – and one or two men – who had gathered in a garden on Luthango Street. They had asked the newspaper to come so that the strong message they wished to send to criminals, and indeed SAPS, could be published.

“Genoeg is Genoeg” (Enough is enough) they shouted, “We are tired of being afraid. We are tired of thieves walking in our community without being arrested.”

The women certainly looked like they meant business, determined to use their numbers to make a difference. They said that whilst they acknowledge that theft has always been a problem in the area, since December it has become much worse. More and more homes have been hit – and seldom is there a night when at least one household hasn’t suffered the results of this criminal activity.

The women believe that their homes are being ‘drugged’ by the perpetrators.
“They are removing the glass from our windows and burning something that makes us sleep heavily, before coming in to steal our stuff,” one lady complained, to the agreement of the others.

The most frustrating thing for them, they said, is that it is two culprits who are responsible for this current run of break-ins, and that the community are fully aware of their identities.
“We know who they are, and where they live!” said one of the women, “But even though they have been reported, the police are not arresting them.”

There was much excitement in the group, each wanting to say how her particular family had been affected by the wave of thievery for which they allege the two men are responsible.
“My mother of 83 years old was broken into,” said one lady. “The man got disturbed and ran off. We later found shoes and a bag outside, so we were able to identify the thief. But when we told the police they didn’t even take him into custody.”

Another person said she had seen one of the thieves carrying ill-gotten building materials past her home in the early hours of the morning. She and other community members went the next day and took the materials off him, informing the police that they had recovered what they believed were stolen goods. “The police told us to give them back to the man. We later found out that they had been stolen from a building site,” the angry lady insisted.

Yet another victim of theft said that her flat screen television and sound system had been stolen, and she was still awaiting the arrival of SAPS investigators. She holds no hope of getting it back. “It will be sold already by now,” she said.

The ladies suggested that their stolen property was mostly being ‘fenced’ in George and Knysna, but that there were some people buying it locally too, and sending it off to their homelands.
As each woman shared her experiences of theft and lack of concerted police action, the mood of the crowd became angrier and more determined to take action.

They believe that they represent most of the women in Smutsville when they say that they have reached the limits of their patience.
“This is just the start,” one of them said, “But the word is spreading. Today we are thirty-two women, by tomorrow there will be over a thousand. Ons is BAIE KWAAD (we are VERY CROSS).”

“Watch out!” yelled another lady, “The Sedgefield women are going to do their own thing to solve this problem. We know where these guys live, and soon we will be marching to their homes.”

And it seems that it is not only the thieves who will feel the might of this angry group.
“Our next target is the Tik houses,” announced one of the leaders of the group, with the others all voicing their agreement, “We know that it’s drugs that lead young people into crime.”

BACK TO SCHOOL

Boys jumping at the back (from L-R): Nicholas Wilbraham, Keaton Irwin, Chad Carelse and Zachary Olivier
Girls in front (from L-R): Jaden Vanston Payne, Kylie Jones, Bella Webster and Abigail van Zyl (Picture by Elrorke Photography)

School starts today and a mixture of excitement, trepidation, and relief fills the air!

Here’s wishing all our local lads and lasses the very best of school years ahead, and strength to their teachers too!

TRAGIC HEAD ON COLLISION CLAIMS 5 LIVES

At around 12 pm on Tuesday 8 January, five people lost their lives as a result of a collision on the N2, just outside Sedgefield.
The fatal accident occurred around 12 pm between the Pine Lake turn off and Drie Valleyen. According to Kenny Africa Western Cape Provincial Traffic Chief, the vehicles involved were a Toyota Etios and a VW Caravelle.
He said that in the Etios along with the female driver were three children aged between three and fourteen. All four died on the scene. The fifth fatality was an adult female who had been traveling in the Caravelle along with the driver and another passenger.
The police are busy with an in-depth investigation to ascertain the cause of the tragic accident, but preliminary reports suggest that it was the result of overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic.

MERRY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

It is indeed Christmas time, the most wonderful time of the year, you might say. And the team at The EDGE would certainly agree with your sentiments.

Families are coming together to celebrate this most special season with one another, there’s a general feeling of excitement in the air from all the girls and boys, their parents and grandparents, and of course the local shopkeepers, who have waited all year for this season of hustle and bustle!

The entire EDGE staff (designers, writers, salespeople, accounts department, proofreaders, editors, sub-editors, sports, crime and social editors, customer liaison officers, tea and coffee artisans, cleaners, maintenance crew, IT guys, page-layout artists, photographers, printers, legal advisors and crossword compilers) would all six like to wish everyone the most wonderfully, happy, relaxing, family-filled, action-packed, laughter-packed, picnic-packed, rested, enriched, humble, joyful, grateful, thankful, thoughtful, peaceful, tummy-full, hilarious, gregarious, and absolutely fantastic Christmas!

Oh, and a Happy New Year too. God bless you all and thank you for your valued support and encouragement in 2018.