SPECTACULAR SEDGEFIELD IN COUNTRY LIFE

by Melanie Baumeister

Picture: The stunning view of Sedgefield from Cloud 9, kind courtesy of Conrad Ball.

Such is the beauty of Sedgefield at the moment, it is more than understandable that the ever-popular Country Life magazine has selected our village as ‘Town of the Month’, with no less than six pages of their June edition dedicated to showing us off.
Whilst everyone knows our town is beautiful all year round, it is even more so now. Indeed, since the turn of the season from Summer to Autumn (and soon Winter), many have remarked and appreciated the abundant display of Mother Nature’s decoration on our lagoon. The magnificent vibrant crimson, vermillion and red on the banks of the estuary of Swartvlei have caused many to pause and wonder at the origin, of this new beauty that has graced our shores.
The plant is Salicornia meyeriana Moss, more commonly known as Samphyre or Glasswort. It is a member of the succulent family and the species grows annually in estuaries from Namaqualand to Madagascar. It grows abundantly when there is a higher concentration of salt in the water, so when the mouth is open and the tide washes over it, it draws the saline up and displays its brilliant sunset hues.
Unfortunately, it will die back as the mouth closes naturally and fresh water levels increase.
There is anecdotal evidence that the young plants are edible, though as they become more ‘stick-like’ and go to seed they lose these apparently tasty qualities. In Spring they will turn to their more familiar green colour and the evidence of the fiery display will be a thing of the past.
Thanks to Dr. Mandy Lombard and Jonathan Britton (SANParks) for kindly assisting with information for this article.

NO SIGN OF MISSING MARIE

Marie Østbø, the 21 year old Norwegian girl who disappeared from Myoli Beach, Sedgefield, on Wednesday 18 April. 

Almost two weeks after the disappearance of Marie Sæter Østbø, the 21 year old Norwegian girl who disappeared from Myoli Beach on Wednesday 18 April, there is still no sign of her, or indeed any new evidence as to what happened.
Her family in Norway is understandably desperate for any news they can hang hope on, or in the very least some sort of closure. Likewise, the Sedgefield community is devastated, and so very heart-sore for the Østbø family. But with every day that goes by, it seems that the chances of finding her are getting less and less.
And whilst the search continues, unfortunately, so does the spread of misinformation and conjecture. With unsubstantiated ‘sightings’ of Marie in North West province being shared on social media, plus a false story of her body being washed up on the beach in Wilderness, and several versions of what has happened since she went missing being bandied around in local and international media, there is no doubt that family and friends of Marie must be desperately frustrated.
Gathering information and indeed confirmation from sources close to and within the organised search, we have ascertained the following details:
Marie arrived in Sedgefield, as part of a tour, at 17.30 on Wednesday 18 April. The group was due to stay at Afrovibe Back Packers near Myoli Beach. At approximately 18.10 a couple who were part of the tour, went for a walk on the beach, followed five minutes later, by Marie, who was walking alone.
As the wind was already blowing, the couple decided to head back fairly soon. They passed some way behind Marie who was sitting on the sand, facing the sea, but did not stop to call her. As they went up the dune they turned to take a photograph of her from the back. This was the last picture taken of the Norwegian girl before her disappearance.
15 to 20 minutes later, members of the group grew concerned as she had not come back to meet them for dinner at 19.00, as had been arranged. When Marie did not answer calls made to her phone, the tour guide went to the NSRI board in front of the beach and called the emergency number. It was 11 minutes past seven when the call was logged.
Realising there might be need for a search of both land and sea, a member of the NSRI contacted Sedgefield Community Orientated Policing (COP), suggesting they also respond to the scene.
Both NSRI and COP members arrived at Myoli at 19.32 and the search commenced. They were joined by SAPS K9 Search and Rescue, and also asked local security companies to check their clients’ homes in the area. SAPS meanwhile took statements from Marie’s friends, the tour guide and staff at PiliPili Beachfront Restaurant.
The NSRI crew searched the beach on quad bikes and 4×4 vehicles from Myoli beach, right up to Platbank, whilst COP members checked from the river mouth round to Myoli, then the dune, then Claude Urban Drive, including line searches of empty properties and construction sites. They also made door to door enquiries, as they believed Marie could have lost her bearings and sought shelter from the storm.
The weather was extremely bad and the seas exceptionally rough. Members of the search parties could barely hear each other above the wind, and visibility was very poor.
Just after midnight, COP volunteer Michael Simon and two SAPS members discovered a pair of white shoes, an iPhone and a white cap lying on the beach. They were not ‘in a neat pile’ as has since been reported, but approximately 2m apart. Whilst they may have been blown by the wind, they were above the high water mark and the phone was still working.
It was quickly ascertained by speaking to members of the tour group that the shoes and phone belonged to Marie, but the cap did not.
The search stopped at 02.00 and restarted at first light – 06.30. By this time it was all hands on deck. More members of SAPS, a Police Dive Unit, Metro Search and Rescue, EMS, the Community Police Forum, Wilderness Search and Rescue, Sedgefield Fire Department and the ASR/EMS Skymed rescue helicopter, arrived to join the K-9 Search and Rescue unit, NSRI Wilderness crew, COP, and Neighbourhood Watch members on the scene, and the search of both land and sea recommenced.
Efforts continued for the whole day, and the days to follow, with various people giving assistance, including the pilot of a motorised paraglider who undertook aerial patrols up and down the coast over the next four days.
When SAPS issued an official alert regarding the missing girl, there was unfortunately a discrepancy in the description of her clothing. Whilst the ‘Missing Person’ report said that she was wearing a white top and blue jeans, it has been confirmed by those on her tour group that she was actually in a dark blue floral top with black long pants. (See picture on page 3)
This mistake is thought to have been as a result of misreading the CCtv footage from the security camera at PiliPili beach bar, taken just before she left for the beach. According to a local CCtv consultant, infrared will show dark colours as light at night. When the footage was taken the infrared was already on as the light was fading, which had a confusing effect on the picture.
There has also been misinformation in some reports regarding Marie’s camera. Whilst it has been stated that she had it with her on the beach, it has been confirmed that the camera was left in her bedroom, where it was later found by SAPS.
Over the following weekend as the search continued to spread further, various members of Norwegian media arrived to report the story of their missing compatriot. Unfortunately there was little in the way of good news that could be offered to them.
On the following Monday a substantial aerial search was undertaken by a Working on Fire helicopter, with various organisational representantives on board. The chopper flight covered the length of the beach, dunes and shallows from Gericke’s Point to Knysna Heads, including over the Swartvlei Lagoon, and then following the rip tide parallel to the coast 2-3km out to sea, all the way to Buffalo Bay.
By Tuesday 24 April SAPS spokesperson Captain Malcolm Pojie was left with no choice but to advise the media that the search had to be scaled down.
“It has already been seven days since she was reported missing, so whilst we will resume the search, it will be a scaled down operation as far as our resources are concerned,” he said at the time.
(Continued on Page 3)
Mike Hofhuis, director of Safety and Security for Sedgefield Ratepayers and also the Chairperson of COP is convinced that the search has been comprehensive and has is covering as many bases as possible. “We wish to thank all the emergency services and community members for their assistance,” he said. “Specifically SAPS K9 Rescue, EMS Search & Rescue, NSRI, the Police Dive Unit and Sedgefield Fire Department.”
Hofhuis also cautioned members of the public to report any information they might receive to the relevant authorities, rather than on social media. “In the interests of Marie’s family and friends, please refrain from speculation, or even sharing speculation of others.”
Sedgefield Neighbourhood Watch Chairperson Michael Simon, who was one of the first responders on the scene and on the forefront of the search effort, declined to comment on what may or may not have happened due to the sensitivity of the case. “I do hope that there is closure soon for her family and friends in Norway in what must be a very difficult time for them,” he said.

SEARCH FOR MISSING FOREIGN STUDENT DOWNSCALED

At 11 o’clock on Tuesday 24 April, the South African Police Service held an impromptu press briefing at Myoli Beach, regarding the missing Norwegian girl Marie Ostbo (21). The basic message given by Communications Officer Captain Malcolm Poje, was that the ongoing search had, as yet, still not produced any clue of the whereabouts of the missing girl or indeed what had happened to her on Wednesday 18 April, and that the time had come to ‘downscale’ search efforts.

“It has already been seven days since she was reported missing, so whilst we will resume the search tomorrow, it will be a scaled down operation as far as our resources are concerned,” he said.

Marie, who arrived in Sedgefield with a group of international student tourists on Wednesday, 18th April, has been missing since approximately 19h00 that evening, after failing to return home from a walk on the beach with friends. Reportedly, when the weather started turning, the others in her party had headed off the beach for shelter and only realised that Marie hadn’t returned to the back-packers a short while later. When they couldn’t locate her, the authorities were called and a search ensued.

During this search, a cell phone and shoes belonging to Marie were located and recovered by Police on the beach in the early hours of the following morning. The SA Police Services, Community Police, a Police K-9 Search and Rescue Unit, a Police Dive Unit, WC Government Health EMS, WSAR (Wilderness Search and Rescue), the ASR/EMS Skymed rescue helicopter, NSRI Wilderness crew, and Neighbourhood Watch members have been combing the area on both land and sea since then, but without success.

At the press briefing held in the Myoli Beach car park, Captain Poje told local and foreign journalists that SAPS do not suspect any foul play at this stage and that currently, the evidence points towards a sea drowning. They will, however, continue to treat the scene as a crime scene and investigate any future leads. When asked if the public release of the missing girl’s picture on Monday 23 April had provided any fresh information, Poje said this had produced several lines of inquiry, all of which had been followed up on.  Sadly no positive results were forthcoming.
POJE warned that if the girl has indeed drowned, her body may well wash up quite a way along the coastline.

Police continue to appeal to anyone with information that can assist in this case to call Knysna Police at 044-3026600.

SEARCH ON FOR MISSING TOURIST- Update

An ongoing search operation, headed by the SA Police Services, has found no sign of missing Marie Ostbo and the search and investigations are ongoing.

The SA Police Services, Community Police, a Police K-9 Search and Rescue Unit, a Police Dive Unit, WC Government Health EMS, WSAR (Wilderness Search and Rescue), the ASR/EMS Skymed rescue helicopter, NSRI Wilderness crew, and Neighbourhood Watch members, searched throughout today.

Despite the extensive search only a cellphone, a hat and shoes belonging to Marie, were located and recovered by Police on the beach, in the vicinity, during the early hours of this morning.

Police are continuing in an ongoing search operation and investigations.

NSRI Wilderness are on alert to assist Police and the Emergency Services and Neighbourhood Watch are continuing to support Police in their ongoing search.

All possibilities are being explored and investigated.

NSRI and authorities are in communication with family abroad assisted by the SA Police Services, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the Royal Norwegian Foreign Office and Consulate Services and the Department of Tourism and assistance and support is continuing.

The tour group are receiving assistance and support.

ORIGINAL: POST

An appeal is made for any information that can assist in locating a 21-year-old female who has disappeared in Sedgefield. Anyone with information that may assist in this case should please contact local Police at 044-3431321.

Marie Ostbo, 21, from Norway, (studying in France and on a tour of South Africa) arrived in Sedgefield with a group of international student tourists on Wednesday, 18th April.

At around 18h00 some of the group went for a walk on the beach and then returned at around 19h00.  Marie was last seen at around 19h00 on the beach, wearing blue jeans and a white shirt, about 100 meters from the backpackers that they are staying.  Friends noticed that she had not come inside with the rest of the group, they went to look for her but they were unable to find her.

NSRI Wilderness and Community Police were activated at 19h40.

NSRI Wilderness, Community Police, the SA Police Services and a Police K-9 Search and Rescue Unit have not been able to find Marie despite an extensive search and all possibilities are being explored.  A search is continuing.

We appeal to anyone who may have seen Marie, or noticed anything that may assist Police in this incident, to contact the Sedgefield Police.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

SMUTSVILLE RESIDENTS DECLARE WAR ON DRUGS

It seems that residents and community leaders of Smutsville have been pushed past their limits when it comes to the scourge of drugs in their hometown.
The ball started rolling a week ago when an angry resident took to a social media platform to name and shame alleged drug dealers in her neighbourhood.
Whilst some decried this bold move, it has since stirred up a nest of angry community members who are tired of having their lives so detrimentally affected by the problem of drugs. Parents whose children have fallen prey to addiction, or the violence that it brings to the streets, families who have had their possessions taken by teens (sometimes their own family members) so desperate for tik they’re willing to risk jail .
The problem is made that much worse by the fact that there is little to no police presence in Smutsville due to an under-resourced station positioned in the village.
Furthermore, it appears that even when drug dealers are arrested, all too often they are back on the streets within days. This is certainly not sending a good message to the younger members of the community.
Running on the forefront of this anti drug-dealer drive is ex-councilor Irene Grootboom. She is determined that a difference can be made if the community stands strong together with collective courage.
Joined by the current Ward 1 Councillor Levael Davies and other community leaders, including representation from the local school, the plan is to build up a mass action against the drug dealers, doing whatever it takes to expose them and bring them to book.
They are also calling on the police and indeed the courts to play their part and take this problem seriously, and members of the wider Sedgefield public to assist wherever and however possible.
Whilst talk is cheap, it appears that action is what’s happening in Smutsville. There are reports of a group of women who identified a drug dealer living in their neighbourhood and forced him to move elsewhere.
“That’s it,” says Councillor Davies, “We need to let the drug dealers know they are not welcome in this town!”
Furthermore, defunct neighbourhood watch groups are being re-formed so that the streets can be manned and monitored at all times.
Mike Hofhuis of Sedgefield’s Community Orientated Policing applauds the courage of this new determined fight. “Now is the time for the residents of Smutsville to stand together against the huge drug problem plaguing the community,” he said, “However residents are urged to please work hand in hand with the relative authorities to bring the drug dealers to book. They must abide by the laws of the land.”
A public meeting is to be held at Sedgefield (Smutsville) Primer School Hall at 7pm on 23 April to get input from the community and relevant authorities and devise an action plan. Residents are urged to attend.

GLOVES OFF IN HEATED DUNE DEBATE

Efforts towards stabilising the storm-damaged Myoli dune by a group of seven property owners called the ‘Myoli Beach Residents Association’ are raising serious and very heated debate between parties concerned, with both Knysna Municipality and SANParks locking horns with the Association members.
SANParks – responsible for the beach area right up to the high water mark, has raised opposition to the work being done, as they believe that not all options have been looked at to stabilise the dune, and that alternatives that are ‘softer’ on the environment would far better serve the purpose.
Sedgefield Ratepayers Association has also weighed in, stating in a letter to the media that
“We have no prior knowledge of this work, which has apparently been started by residents of this area and we have certainly never approved what is being done.” (see full letter on Letters Page)
Meanwhile the Knysna Municipality has issued an injunction for the Myoli Association’s team to stop work on the dune due to the lack of an OSCAE Permit, but the Association has continued with the task, citing that the Section 30A directive from the Department of Environmental Affairs, which permits them to commence immediate construction of the gabion stabilising structures, is from a higher authority, and thus overrides the Municipality’s call to halt.
With all parties seeking legal advice it seems evident that this matter may only be solved in court.

(See page one and three under ‘latest edition’ for the continuation of this story)

BODY OF MISSING 77 YEAR OLD MAN FOUND

Sedgefield residents were dismayed to hear that the body of Anthony Turnbull (77) was found early evening of Sunday 1st April on an empty property in Begonia Street, Sedgefield. Police say that no foul play is suspected.
The elderly man was reported missing on Wednesday 28 March when he failed to return from his habitual morning walk, for which he had set off at around eight in the morning.
A search party was assembled by SAPS warrant Officer Kapp, including members of SAPS, the Traffic Department, the Fire Department, NSRI, Community Orientated Policing (COP), Sedgefield Neighbourhood Watch, Suiderkruis Security and Fidelity ADT.
It was believed that the missing man had been seen on Cormorant Street near the ‘Sedgefield Castle’ so the search fanned out from that area right down to the water’s edge, with NSRI searched along the beach using quad bikes.
Alerts and updates were also put out on various platforms of social media, and though several reports of ‘sightings’ that came in were investigated thoroughly, none yielded results.
Turnbull was eventually found by Juanita van der Westhuizen, a Neighbourhood Watch member, whose dogs had led her to his body in the thick undergrowth.

 LISTERIOSIS:  RECALL OF SNAX PRODUCTS

The Environmental Health Practitioners of Eden District Municipality are continuing preventative actions to prevent further outbreaks of Listeriosis, which comprise monitoring of retailers to ensure that no suspected products remain on shelves, ensuring safe disposal and incineration of recalled products, investigations and inspections at food premises to ensure hygienic conditions and practices at food premises and Listeriosis prevention education and awareness actions.

In addition to the Enterprise range, Tiger Brands has issued a precautionary recall of all ‘Snax’ branded products.

As the distribution partner, Clover will facilitate the customer and consumer recall process. On 19 March 2018, Clover issued the procedure to be followed in handling the Snax Product Recall, which will comprise two components – the first being the trade recall/withdrawal and the second being the consumer/shopper return component.

With regards to the shopper/consumer returns, the shopper will bring the product back to the store for a full refund, irrespective of till slip being available or not.  Clover will be responsible for the collection and uplift of all products affected by the recall – this includes both customer and consumer returns. Clover will be responsible to safely remove products from stores and will also manage the safe destruction of recalled products at a registered incinerator.

IT’S TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE

(The names of those involved in this case have been withheld for obvious reasons)
A Smutsville mother is calling on the community to confront the very real problem of child molestation in this area This after her 11-year-old son was taken by a grown man and raped, two days in a row.
The devastated mother said that the first instance happened on Thursday 1st March, when the perpetrator allegedly met her son as he was leaving school. The man instructed the boy to go with him, and when he refused, simply picked the young lad up and carried him on his shoulders, threatening to hurt him if he called out or struggled.
He took the boy to a public toilet block not too far away, where the terrible deed was done. Before letting the boy go he once again threatened his life should he tell anyone what had happened, and overcome with fear the terrified boy said nothing to anyone.
The man returned the following day and repeated the whole heinous act.
The terrible crime may have gone unreported if it hadn’t been for the boy’s grandmother, who noticed a change in his behaviour the next day whilst she was looking after him and his brother. She asked him why he was getting so angry and lashing out at his younger sibling, and kept pushing until finally the boy could not keep the terrible secret any longer.
The matter was reported to the police and medical personnel examined the boy and confirmed that he had indeed been molested. The boy did not know his attacker, but through a turn of various events (details of which cannot be reported here as they could affect the case) he was later able to positively identify the man to a police officer.
Spokesperson for SAPS, Knysna, Sergeant Chris Spies, has since confirmed that a 36-year-old male suspect was arrested and appeared in the Knysna Magistrates’ court on 14 March 2018. This suspect is still in custody awaiting a date for a formal bail application. His name cannot yet be released due to the nature of the case.
The boy is meanwhile being counseled by a social worker. Though he still has regular bouts of anger and frustration, his mother reports he is slowly showing signs of improvement.
Still visibly shaken by her son’s horrific ordeal, she is understandably heartbroken but says that this is certainly not an isolated case of molestation and abuse in the local area. She believes that it is time to break the silence over these sorts of social issues in the community.
“People aren’t speaking out enough about this sort of crime,” she says, “It is happening, but they are quiet about it.”
Her desperate request is for community leaders to lead the community in taking action against these terrible crimes. She asks that everyone watches what is going on on the streets.
“If you see someone walking with a child who you know does not belong to them, ask questions. Speak to the child’s parents,” she pleads.
Children should be advised that they may report such cases to a health worker, the local clinic or the local police station. They may also contact the toll free number for childline 0800 05 55 55.

A BOY’S DREAM COME TRUE

On Friday morning the excitement at Laerskool Sedgefield Primary was palpable as the entire school witnessed a young boy’s dream becoming a reality.
Whilst there’s surely many a lad who would give a year’s pocket money to fly aboard an Air Force chopper – it’s doubtful there are many as passionate about the idea as 9-year-old Liam du Preez. And judging by the size of his smile as he and his classmates boarded the SAAF Oryx Helicopter and took to the skies, the experience was even better than he anticipated.
One could say that helicopters, the Oryx in particular, are in Liam’s blood. His Grandfather Russell du Preez was an Oryx flight engineer who passed away as a result of a helicopter accident in China, four years before Liam was born, and his uncle Mark is also qualified as an Oryx flight engineer, who now flies smaller choppers for the Red Cross Air Mercy Service in Durban.
Single parent Yolande, says that even though Liam grew up pretty much without a father figure, he was ALWAYS besotted by helicopters. So when Oryxes carrying Bambi buckets joined the fight against the Knysna blazes in June last year, he spent a great deal of time on their stoep watching them fly over and waving at the crew on board.
“Then he drew a picture and asked if I could send it to them along with a letter he had written,” said Yolande, “He said he wanted to thank them and tell them they were true heroes.”
She managed to contact Major Nico van Schalkwyk who had been in charge of the aerial firefighting effort – specifically the Oryx choppers, and he kindly invited Liam to meet the Knysna crew and personally hand over his letter to them. Much to the young lad’s delight they took Liam on board a helicopter and explained to him how the water scooping ‘Bambi’ buckets worked.
But it didn’t end there. The Major was so impressed with the well mannered Liam’s eagerness to learn, that he forwarded both letter and sketch to General Etienne de Bod of the South African Air Force (SAAF) in Pretoria.
In turn, the General then contacted the family saying he wished to come with an Oryx chopper and crew to meet the boy at school.
Yolande wasted no time in making arrangements with the school to make the visit a reality. “It was a long wait before it happened – but worth every second,” she told us when the day finally arrived.
The whole school assembled on the field, along with Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies, parents and inquisitive locals, to watch the Oryx land and witness a very proud Liam being presented with an SAAF flying cap. Then, after a detailed safety lecture, he and his class were split into groups of eight and taken up for a ride of their lives. This certainly was a dream come true.
“We are extremely grateful and happy that the Air Force and everyone else involved could make this happen for my son and his classmates,” said a very emotional Yolande, “No words can express how much this meant to me and my son.”
There’s no doubt that the SAAF will be getting a few new recruits from Sedgefield in a few years’ time, and one, in particular, will have the honour of continuing the Flight Engineer tradition for the du Preez family.