ANOTHER PHENOMENAL SLOW FESTIVAL

by Mark Dixon
“Even after a brilliant sunset, the stars come out to shine” Surely a saying that epitomises this year’s Slow Festival activities. Right from the opening ceremony on Wednesday evening with Executive Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies and Knysna & Partners Chairlady, Elmay Bouwer, both praising the initiative and dedication of the organising committee, this year’s Slow Festival has run with a blend of exceptional crowd participation and engaging activities.
Not only did the themed orange colour of the festival prevail throughout, but the diversity of activities offered a perfect balance for families to enjoy relaxed catch up moments after some energetic sporting events and fringe activities to entertain both children and adults.
Not to forget the true message of Easter, devotees could fortify their belief by participating in the Way of the Cross, a pilgrimage through the village with stops at various churches, each with a message of the Passion of the Christ.
Since its inception the Slow Festival has grown annually, and has become an integral part of showcasing the lifestyle of the village. From a family at the Sand Sculpture Challenge expressing excitement about their imminent move to Sedgefield, or sportsmen planning to return for next year’s Pick n Pay Goukamma Traverse Trail Run and the Garden Route Fat Bike Challenge, or parents planning to go to the ‘Movies with the Stars’ so that they can share a nostalgic outing that was part of their own youth with their children, the festival has consistently provided entertainment that embraces the warm lifestyle of a community.
If you went down to the woods, well actually to the Fish Eagle Green on Saturday to watch the start of the SUP Race and Anything That Floats, you would have been hard pressed to find parking space if you were late, testimony to the support for this and other events during the festival.
For the night owls, there was plenty of entertainment to keep you up until the early hours of the morning, starting with a music event at the Village Green and then migrating to Pili Pili for the Beer Pong competition.
Sometimes the stars even shine during the day at the Slow Festival, and festinos were graced with the presence of local hero Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Pieters who, to the delight of everyone, lead the Sunday Street Parade. Selflessly she posed and autographed countless photos before addressing the crowds, motivating everyone to give 150% in their efforts to achieve their dreams. Testimony to her message is that along her path she was crowned Miss Slow Festival in 2011.
So, on Sunday evening, with the hymns of the choir still echoing through my mind and the last tent on the village green dismantled and packed away, I drove home. The sun had set and the Outeniqua Mountains were crystal clear along the horizon and contentment descended on me as I reflected that, this, like every other Slow Festival with all the wonderful activities for the weekend, had been a special holiday that catered for an escape from daily living and that it truly IS a star in the calendar of events in the Garden Route.

EDITOR’S FOOTNOTE
Whilst most of the village is still high on the Slow Festival Buzz, it should be noted that there is every danger that this year may have been the last.
At the closing ceremony on Sunday, organiser Amanda Dixon was upfront about the festival’s future. She explained how, thanks to the tireless work of the committee and the enthusiastic input of the community and local businesses, the Slow Festival had shown very healthy growth over the last eight years to become the wonderful event that the locals and visitors enjoy, despite having ‘shoe-string’ funding.
“But with growth comes an increase in overheads,” she said, “And our Slow Festival is now in a place where aligning with a corporate sponsor is the only way forward.” Anyone who has ideas, or better yet contacts with potential corporate sponsors should please email Amanda on events@tumbleweeds.co.za.

SEDGEFIELD STANDS AGAINST ZUMA

The tiny hamlet called Sedgefield was certainly not its usual quiet self this Friday morning, when residents came out in their droves to publicly stand against President Zuma.

Answering the nationwide call from various political groups, including some ANC stalwarts, Sedgefielders took to the N2 to show their displeasure at the President’s recent actions, specifically the axing of Finance Minister Pravin Gordahn in a recent cabinet reshuffle, which saw the Rand plummet in value.  A festive atmosphere pervaded the hundreds of protesters who stood at the N2 intersection brandishing “Zuma must go” placards, whilst passing vehicles hooted in support. Smoke rose, but from braais, not burning tyres, and drumming and chanting could be heard from blocks away.

The event has been authorised by Knysna Municipality.

 

MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM NOT TO BE MISSED

The Sedge Players have certainly pulled out all the creative stops for their production of Shakespeare’s comedy “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, opening this Thursday.
Hearing it was to be performed in the open air on the other side of the railway line in front of Sedgefield Station, I foolishly wondered if such a setting would work.
It not only works – it is absolutely perfect! The play itself is set in a rather enchanted wooded area, and certainly no indoor stage could have provided such an ethereal beauty as this spot.
Clever use of lighting adds to the experience and quickly whisks the audience away to the deep forests of Shakespeare’s time.
The 23 strong cast is equally delightful, and brimming with new-found talent. From the mischievous Puck, to the confused lovers, to the Faery King and Queen. There’s even a band of dodgy travelling performers thrown in!
The play has been cunningly crafted into a shorter version by Stage Manager Jules Reid, and in the hands of Director Melanie Baumeister and her Assistant Emma Rorke, it really has been moulded into something very special.
Opening night is already sold out, but there are a few tickets left for other four performances. If you are in anyway a fan of the arts – please don’t miss out – get down to Deo Gratia and make sure you get to see this show.

(Picture by Emma Rorke)

BETTER ADDRESSES FOR LOCALS

Whilst the changing of Street names on Sedgefield Island certainly did not get the green light from locals last year, it seems other suburbs of Ward 1 – including Smutsville, Sizamile, Cola and Myoli – are home to far more accommodating residents.

With the three month period of public comment drawing to a close at 12 o’clock today, the Chairman of the Municipal Signage Commission Rapil Solof says that not a single objection has been received, and he is delighted that the renaming of roads in those areas may go ahead as planned.

When asked why the expensive process of change had been embarked on, Solof was obviously quite passionate about the task.

“It’s because some of the current names really aren’t appropriate. For example, Pacific Close – we don’t even have that ocean near our coastline, so why should we celebrate its existence at all?” he said, “It’s the same with Carribean Close – that is not even an African name at all.”

He quite rightly pointed out that people would prefer addresses that were linked to South Africa and its history, and that in-depth, all-inclusive research had been done by his committee in coming up with appropriate alternatives.

“We have a wide range of proposed names – mostly after Africa’s leaders of the past, but also some of the current presidents still leading the continent.  We have kept them quiet because we don’t want any politicking, but I can tell you there is going to be a fight to choose who gets the best ones.”

He says that once the names have been released they will be allocated through a voting process, which his committee would closely monitor.

“With 44 roads being changed, we have chosen fifty new names,” Solof told us, “The decision of which name for which road will lie with the Sedgefield Residents.”

He went on to explain that the ‘voting’ would be done via an sms system, which itself would in turn generate income for the name change project.

“It’s simple. All residents have to do is type the old name, then the words ‘change to’ followed by the new name, and send it to 1417,” he said.

With each sms costing R80 this should more than cover the cost of erecting new signs, with perhaps a few Rands left to help with road maintenance.

“It’s a in-win situation,” he crooned.

In a cryptic conclusion, Solof suggested that residents who grasped the true nature of this change should perhaps consider keeping it to themselves instead of making it public knowledge.

“Otherwise you will be ruining the surprise!” he pointed out.

DEMI-LEIGH WINS MISS SA

All we can say is WOW! Our very own Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters has just been crowned Miss South Africa 2017 at the Sun City Superbowl.

Demi- Leigh – a former head girl of Sedgefield Primary in 2008 (not to mention wearing the coveted ‘Miss Sedgefield Primary’ crown the same year) has long been the ‘darling’ of this slow town as we have followed her schooling and modelling career with interest. Indeed way back when she was a young teenager and began winning pageants, this very paper suggested (perhaps with a little tongue in cheek at the time) that we could have a future Miss South Africa in the making.

Little did we know…..

And though nobody can deny the beauty and poise that radiated from the young lady throughout the whole rather nerve-wracking finals evening, Demi is certainly not all about looks. As previously reported in The EDGE she has just finished her final year in Business Management and Entrepreneurship at Potch and will be returning to do her honours next year.

As the new Miss South Africa Demi will receive R1m in cash from sponsors Sun International and Cell C, a Nissan Duke as well as a bouquet of other prizes.

During her reign she will represent South Africa at both Miss World and Miss Universe pageants.

From the buzz of social media there is HUGE pride about Demi’s wonderful achievement from all corners of the village, with congratulations already pouring in from Tourism and Ratepayers and so many others within minutes of the judges’ announcement.

Receiving her crown Demi-Leigh gave the following acceptance speech:

“I would like to thank my Heavenly Father for everything He has blessed me with just as he promised in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

As a young girl, I would watch the Miss South Africa competition wishing with all my heart that one day too I would be able to walk on that stage just like those glamorous women I saw on television. Tonight that dream came true. This dream of mine was shared by my family, friends and those who knew me. But little did I know how blessed I would be with support of people all over the world dreaming this dream with me. So, as I stand here tonight, I wear this crown not only for that little girl in front of the TV but for every little girl with a dream, every South African with a dream of a better life, for every single person with a wish of wanting to live as the highest truest versions of themselves.

I will continue to wear this crown for all of them throughout my reign.

I vow to dedicate the next 365 days of my life to serve the people of South Africa, to be a voice to those who are afraid to or cannot speak up and to represent the whole of our beautiful nation. I vow to listen, to be there, to help where I can and to recognize that we all want to be heard, we all want to be validated. I hear you, I see you, I am you!

I stand here in awe of the women who came before me. I will build and add to this very strong foundation that has been laid there for me by all the previous Miss South Africa’s, who I look up to and respect in so many ways. I will take the reins with pride and honour and run with it. I stand on your shoulders knowing that the foundation you’ve built is unbreakable because of your passion, dedication and selflessness. The way you’ve given of yourselves and how you’ve inspired our nation will be my motivation, my strength and my compass as I embark on this journey.

To all four of my parents, mom, dad, stepmother and stepfather: Thank you for raising me the way you did. Thank you for being hard on me when it was necessary, for instilling in me a sense of responsibility, not only for myself but for others around me as well. I didn’t always like it then but I am thankful for it now. Thank you for always leading by example, for always having my back and for loving me unconditionally. I stand here tonight as a young woman with the world at my feet only because you made me realise the power that was already inside of me. I will forever love and honour you.

To Cell C, Sun International and all the sponsors, thank you for making my journey as a finalist unforgettable. There is a reason why this pageant is considered one of the best in the world. The way you support and uplift young women in South Africa has instilled a new sense of passion in me to strengthen a new generation of women that will one day lead this nation. I am beyond excited to take on this year and leave a legacy.

I believe that one shouldn’t get into something only to test the waters, but to make waves. That is exactly what I tend to do. My vision for my year as Miss South Africa 2017 is to help woman to help themselves. Not only to give them a fish to eat but to teach them how to fish in order to create a sustainable life for themselves. I look forward to partnering with corporates, government and social entrepreneurs to implement mentoring programmes to teach young South African woman how to start and run their own businesses in order to create a sustainable future not only for themselves but for their communities as well.
I want to leave a legacy of helping young South African women realise and nurture their own God-given talents to create opportunities and support themselves and those around them and to take their rightful place in society.

Tonight I stepped on that stage as Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters; I now greet you as Miss South Africa 2017. Thank you.

If Sedgefield wasn’t on the map before – it certainly is now. Well done Demi-Leigh!

Boipelo Mabe was crowned second princess and Adè van Heerden from Herold’s Bay was crowned first princess in this 59th annual beauty pageant.

MUNICIPAL MANAGER RESIGNS DURING HEARING

Suspended Knysna Municipal Manager, Grant Easton,  tendered his resignation yesterday, 15 March, during a disciplinary hearing. 

According to a press release from the Municipal Communications Department, the disciplinary hearing was convened after Easton was charged last year with misconduct in relation to several serious irregularities which occurred during his tenure. At the hearing the Municipality called several witnesses to testify in the case against him.

“In the opinion of the Municipality, the evidence against Easton was overwhelming. However, Easton unexpectedly tendered his resignation, effective 30 April, during the hearing ,” the release stated.

The Municipality accepted the resignation, which brought an end to the employment relationship, and the purpose of the disciplinary hearing was mooted.

“Easton is legally entitled to receive all benefits which accrued to him prior to his resignation. This includes past accumulated leave days and an old outstanding bonus dating back to the 2014/15 budget year,” the release read.

“The total cost of proceedings is yet to be finally calculated. The Municipality has a constitutional imperative to investigate misconduct and to discipline staff and the cost could not be avoided.

“We can assure the public that no settlement was entered into, and Easton was not paid out for the rest of the term of his contract. He will also not receive any bonus for the 2015/16 budget year or the 2016/17 budget year.”

 

LAND WRANGLE OVER SEDGE CEMETERY

In a press release issued on Tuesday 7 March, Knysna Municipality announced that they have been prohibited in terms of a High Court order, to enter upon or to use the land known as ‘Sedgefield Cemetery’ as a cemetery. This court order was obtained by New Line Investments (Pty) Ltd, Avieprop Developments (Pty) Ltd and Aviemore Home Owners Association.

The Municipality, custodians of the Sedgefield Cemetery situated on the northern side of the N2 above Aviemore, was further ordered to close all burial grounds or areas prepared for use as burial grounds on the property.

This order remains intact while an ownership, land use rights and necessary authorization dispute between Newline Investments and the Knysna Municipality is being resolved.

According to Knysna Municipality, back in 1999 the then Sedgefield Municipality (which was later absorbed by Knysna) obtained the Record of Decision (ROD) in terms of the old Environmental Conservation Act to develop the property as a cemetery after the land was expropriated from a Dr van der Merwe during 1999.

“Sadly Dr van der Merwe passed away, and during the winding up of his estate it was found that the property was still registered in his name. It was later sold from the estate to Newline Investments,” said the press release, “Now Newline Investments claim ownership of the property and they do not acknowledge that the property was expropriated. They took further exception to the use of the property as a cemetery, stating that the property is zoned – Agricultural Zone I. They state that the necessary statutory authorisation as required by various Acts must be obtained.”

We asked Mike Young, who was the Mayor of Sedgefield in 1999, if he had any recollections of the transaction.

“I well remember the issue coming before Sedgefield Council. I think that payment for the land was authorised and we were led to believe that it had taken place and that transfer of the property had been initiated,” he told us, “ I have been told that many of the Sedgefield records transferred to Knysna Municipality are no longer available, so I suspect that the only way to get proof of payment may be to try to get Sedgefield Council’s bankers to help.  Since all this happened nearly 20 years ago, legal prescription may make this not possible.”

Said Knysna Acting Municipal Manager, Johnny Douglas, “We and Newline Investments are currently in negotiations regarding the ownership, and if no satisfactory settlement can be reached, the question of ownership shall be decided by a court of law.”

He added: “We are advised that should the matter be referred to court, it may take between 18 to 36 months to obtain judgement, where after, if we are successful, we still would need to apply for the proper legislative authorisation.”

The Municipality says that their proverbial hands are tied as they may not proceed to develop or use the cemetery illegally and in contravention of the court order and legislation.

“The Knysna Municipality has the greatest understanding of the community’s frustration and I sympathise and empathise with all members of the public whose relatives and friends are buried in the cemetery. I undertake to revert back to the Sedgefield community leaders on the progression of this matter,” added MAYCO Chair of Community Services, Councillor Cathy Weideman.

SANPARKS MEETS DOG OWNERS HALF WAY

SANParks is meeting dog owners half way concerning the walking of dogs in the Garden Route National Park. New areas for walking dogs on the beach in the Wilderness Park area (which includes Sedgefield) were rezoned after considering input from extensive research and surveys done. These zones are now simplified in a guideline (brochure & visible signage) published by the Park for walking dogs in designated areas of the Park. Signage will be erected by the end of this week with rezoned areas and brochures distributed first in Wilderness.

According to main Marine Ranger for Wilderness, Jonathan Britton, these zones are currently applicable for the Wilderness Beach but the colour-coded system will be rolled out in phases to Sedgefield as well. Various existing organised forums for stakeholders will be used.

The simplified version of the guideline is colour-coded:

Green zones: are dog friendly beaches, dogs still need to be under the command of their humans and dog ‘poo’ must picked up and binned. This is not a free-for-all zone, but the Code of Conduct for dog walking still applies.

Yellow Zones: Dogs are only permitted on leashes. The yellow zone was introduced after a survey was conducted for white fronted plovers and found some breeding pairs as well as likely habitat around the popular entry points for dog walking. There has been a significant drop nationally in the population numbers of white fronted plovers, and dogs walking on a leash toward a green dog friendly beach was the best comprise to improve the breeding potential and success of the local pairs of these birds.

Red Zone: No dogs are permitted as these are either known important bird breeding areas or recreational beaches where beach goers who prefer not to share their beach time with dogs have a place to visit as well.

‘We believe that these zones strike a balance between protecting coastal bird breeding and habitat areas, dog walking and other recreational users’ says Britton.

The onus is on those walking dogs to abide by guidelines regulating this activity. This can be done through checking signage regularly that is posted along the beach and forestry areas.

Why dogs are not allowed in other areas of the Park

  • This is primarily to protect dogs from wild animals as dogs may become prey to predators or get attacked by other wild animals such as baboons, especially in the forestry areas.
  • Dogs in the Park may harass or kill animals and plants protected by the Park. They may also disturb birds during breeding seasons.
  • Dogs also tend to enjoy digging up plants and which may be significant indigenous plants necessary for the survival of the ecosystem.
  • Dogs also spread diseases. Domestic dogs and cats may carry certain pathogens that pose a serious disease risk to wild canids, felids, viverids and mustelids.

Dogs threaten birds like the African Oystercatcher

  • Adults and chicks become separated and nests and youngsters become vulnerable to trampling and predation by gulls, dogs and man.
  • Their nests are often a shallow scrape in the sand on exposed beaches and vulnerable to roving and excitable dogs.
  • Incubation of eggs is about 29 days and youngsters take about 45 days to become independent. Breeding success rate is 20-40%.
  • Black Oystercatchers are threatened by disturbance and coastal development; the total population is less than 6500 individuals.

These new laws will also be available to share on the SANParks website: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/

Members of the public are encouraged to write to us about their concerns, queries and experience in the Park. All queries can be directed to: nandi.mgwadlamba@sanparks.org

TOURISM HANGING IN THE BALANCE

(Picture: Sedgefield’s Tourism Manager Belinda Hobson with 2016 Expedition Africa crew member Hose Pires)

There has been serious concern raised by some Sedgefield residents, especially those associated with the tourism industry, that the future of our local tourism office, and indeed the whole of Knysna and Partners (previously Knysna Tourism) is hanging in the balance. This after it was intimated to staff members last week that, as of the end of June this year, they may well be out of work as the Knysna Municipality would no longer be providing funds.

Knysna and Partners (K&P) is a section 21 company that has for many years had the mandate to market the Greater Knysna area. It is funded for the most part by an annual grant of over R4 million from Knysna Municipality, as well as smaller amounts raised by membership fees and commissions.
The Sedgefield Tourism Office (a branch of Knysna and Partners) will certainly be sorely missed should it close due to lack of funding. Under the enthusiastic management of Belinda Hobson and her small team it has for years played an integral part in not only promoting the village as a holiday destination, but bringing the community together through various projects.
We asked Knysna and Partners Board representative Elmay Bouwer for clarity on whether there was indeed a problem, and she kindly responded on behalf of the board.
“The current Service Level Agreement between K&P and Knysna Municipality will come to an end on 30 June 2017 with no guarantees of an extension, renewal or future grant funding. Due to the current situation the K&P board took a resolution not to commit to renewing contracts for staff appointed on a yearly basis and relevant staff have been informed with regards to this.
“Board members have also been in consultation with full time staff members and communicated the following to them:
1. The Board has no sight or confirmation of funding from the Municipality or any other financial investor at this stage.
2. Whilst they are trying to secure confirmation of future commitments, they are obliged to inform the staff that they (The Board) face this dynamic of no funding beyond 30 June 2017.
3. The board has taken a pro-active approach to appoint a transition committee with a mandate to come up with a new strategic vision, workable plan and budget for the future and this will be presented to the municipality.
4. The board is in the process of setting up a meeting with the Municipal Manager (according to SLA agreement Reporting & Monitoring should happen with the Municipal Manager) to discuss exactly what it is the municipality expects from K&P, and what their vision is going forward.
5. The Board has stated that, should another entity need to be formed, the current staff will have the opportunity to apply for vacancies that may arise within such entity.”
The EDGE also contacted the Knysna Municipality for comment regarding the possible closure of K&P due to the cancelled funding, and though acting Municipal Manager Johnny Douglas confirmed that the matter was under discussion, it seems that tourism staff and other parties will only get confirmation one way or another in three months’ time.
“The matter pertaining to the future funding of the Knysna tourism entity, Knysna &Partners has been discussed in previous Council meetings,” he said. “Funding of whichever nature will be decided by Council as part of our formal Medium Term Revenue Expenditure Framework Process. This will happen at the end of May, as per legislated time frames. An item regarding KM’s approach to “local Tourism” delivery is due to be submitted for the next section 80 meeting.”
Meanwhile Bouwer urged members to attend the Knysna and Partners AGM set for Thursday, 17h30, 23 Feb 2017 at Villa Castollini. The initial AGM held one week earlier had to be cancelled due to a quorum not being present.
“There is very pertinent information to be relayed so it is important for all our members to attend,” she said.

MIDSUMMER’S NOT TO BE MISSED

We couldn’t resist sharing this stunning picture taken by talented local photographer Emma Rorke. The fairy is Romey Bobeck who is playing the part of Titania ‘Queen of the Fairies’ in the up-coming Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Sedge Players’ production due to be performed in the open air on 6,7,8 and 15 April in Sedgefield at the Station. With a talented cast of locals, young and old, known and unknown, and a palpable enthusiasm from all involved, this looks to be a show not to be missed.  Tickets on sale from 01 March at Deo Gratia, in the Sedgefield Pick n Pay Centre.