YEAR IN REVIEW– HEADLINES
Grahamstown schools boasted excellent results in the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) matric exams for 2017. In results released on January 3 this year St Andrew’s College said the 2017 matric class achieved a 100% pass rate, and all the boys have qualified to study at tertiary level for degree (97%) or diploma (3%) courses. Kingswood College announced that their top seven matrics of 2017 gathered 32 distinctions between themselves and over 80% overall averages. At the Diocesan School for Girls (DSG), three matrics were listed on the IEB commendable list for being placed in the top 5% of all matric IEB candidates in five subjects.
A Nemato policeman was shot at, allegedly by a man he knew, late at night on the road to Peddie. Sergeant Mzwanele Mafu was off-duty at the time, on November 8 2017, and travelling with his father and son. A man was arrested and appeared in court on attempted murder charges, but Mafu felt his life was in danger when the suspect was released on bail.
There was a buzz in the air on Wednesday morning, January 18, with feelings of great excitement and nervousness as pupils from Port Alfred and surrounds sat for the first day of school, some for the first time entering Grade 1 and some for the last time who were moving onto the final phase of their high school career.
Former Ndlambe infrastructure director Xolani Masiza was one of eight officials of the Alfred Nzo District Municipality who appeared in court in January on charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption, and contraventions of Municipal Finance Management Act totalling more than R300-million. The charges were related to a case of tender fraud dating back to 2014. Masiza had just been with Alfred Nzo Municipality for a few months at the time, having left his job at Ndlambe in June 2014.
Ndlambe Municipality received yet another qualified audit from the Auditor General (AG) for the financial period, 2016/2017 despite assurances by the municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni when that financial year began, that this would not be the case. Ndlambe has never received a clean audit from the AG, and the basis for the AG’s qualified opinion for the past year was due to, as the report states, “…irregular expenditure of R368.6-million (in 2016 it was R284.6-million).”
Ndlambe’s iconic Fish River Resort reopened its doors to domestic and international guests after Eastern Cape-based Mantis Collection secured a one-year caretaker contract of the former Sun International hotel from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). Sun International, who owned the building and ran the facility, had been in negotiations with national government for some time.
A grandmother from Kleinemonde gave her granddaughter the ultimate gift of life – a new kidney. Jenni MacLeod, 69, was operated on at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town and her kidney transported to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and transplanted into her granddaughter, Alexandra Taljard, who was just five years old.
Residents of Nemato had the opportunity to address their complaints about crime and dissatisfaction with local policing to the big brass on Friday February 16, when Eastern Cape Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga attended an accountability engagement event at Titi Jonas Hall in Thornhill.
Confusion, followed by a hasty turnaround by ANC councillors, prevented the Ndlambe municipal adjustment budget from being approved at the special council meeting, held at the council chambers at the end of February. “The council is being hoodwinked,” declared DA caucus leader Ray Schenk, who holds the finance portfolio – appointed to that post when he and the mayor, Phindile Faxi, swapped portfolios in December 2017. Up until that point Schenk was responsible for the corporate services directorate.
There was an atmosphere of excitement at Titi Jonas Hall over three days in March as hundreds of locals auditioned for SABC2’s Showville talent contest, with a chance to win a R10 000 prize and be featured on TV. In the end it was Sheeba Noluvoyo Gola from Ndlovini who stole the show with her beautiful singing. She walked away with R10,000 cash and a trophy.
Ndlambe municipal officials and councillors were conspicuously absent when it came to attending the Tourism Capacity Planning conference, held at the Royal St Andrews Hotel mid-March, despite other municipalities, including the two metros, Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay being represented in significant numbers. Representatives from the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Dedeat) and the Government Technical Advisory Centre (Gtac) attended the meeting to help with governmental interventions, if and where required.
It was at around 3am on a Tuesday morning when Kristen Waters and Kim van Zyl found their 18-month-old dog, Peanut, behind the small complex in which they live off Beach Road, his front left paw caught in a metal trap. “I was so upset,” said a visibly shaken Waters. “We searched for over an hour before we found him.”
One of the province’s top golfing spots was about to reopen its doors after a brief hiatus after the former Fish River Sun Hotel swapped hands and was taken over by the government as part of a land claim by Xhosa clans, and is now under the caretakership of boutique hotel group the Mantis Collection. This was announced by new general manager of the resort Ashley Palm in an interview with Talk of the Town.
It was a very busy and eventful week in Port Alfred, when the Royal St Andrews Hotel Amanzi Festival started on the Easter weekend and continued through the week till it concluded on the following Sunday. Among the events were the marina mile open water swim, jet ski and rubber duck races at East Beach and in the Kowie River, bodyboarding and a highly-anticipated World Series surfing event. The feeling of the organisers of the Amanzi Festival was that the 10-day event brought much needed revenue to Port Alfred to help stimulate growth and create jobs.
Drawing curious stares from passers-by, two Bushmen dressed just in loincloths passed through Port Alfred in April on a walk from Port Elizabeth to East London with the purpose of reclaiming the identity of their people. The leader, who goes by the name, Chief Khoisan SA and his tribesman, Shane Plaatjies, agreed to tell their story to Talk of the Town when a staff member came across them in the CBD. They said they wanted to be known as Bushmen or Khoisan.
Ndlambe Municipality rejected a controversial application to build a cell tower on the property of the Port Alfred Dutch Reformed Church in Broadway, Forest Downs. There were numerous objections to the proposed cell tower from neighbours and surrounding community members when the application first came to light in May 2016. Objectors even staged a protest with placards denouncing the proposal outside the church while members arrived for Sunday services, which resulted in some heated conversations.
Although it began fairly quietly, an attempted land-grab by members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deteriorated into scenes of violence and destruction to property as people attempted to measure out potential land plots for occupation. After assembling at Jauka Hall in Nemato around 8am on Friday April 27 the procession walked a short distance from the hall to the Nemato and Station Hill crossroads on Bathurst Road. There, several EFF members began interfering with traffic. According to police at the scene, after refusing requests by police to move several EFF members were taken into custody.
It was announced that Port Alfred would have a brand new community radio station, Sunshine FM 106.1, from the beginning of July. The station, previously based in Peddie, was to be relocated to Port Alfred by media entrepreneur Tapelo Selepe and found a home in the renovated Heritage Mall. Selepe said he was determined to make it a true community station with diverse programming that will appeal to a broad spectrum of people.
At a meeting where farmers were glaringly absent, the DA assured local supporters that the party was “vehemently opposed to the expropriation of land without compensation and tampering with the constitution”. The meeting at the Port Alfred Civic Centre drew a diverse crowd, with many supporters from Ndlambe townships singing and dancing in their enthusiasm for the party, and a score of Port Alfred residents and businesspeople with a stake in large property developments. The meeting was addressed by DA’s shadow minister of rural development and land reform, MP Thandeka Mbabama.
The long-awaited discussion between Ndlambe Municipality, the national department of public works and 43 Air School took place at the council chambers and moved the discussion regarding the airport, the perimeter fence and the runway a little closer to an agreement. The air school has been operating on land owned by the state through the department of public works. The question of whether the school could purchase the land has proven contentious and the transfer of the land to Ndlambe Municipality has also been raised.
The DA shone on the spotlight on Ndlambe’s failed poultry project near Kleinemonde, which squandered R1.2-million, with nothing to show for it. In a statement released by DA MPL Jane Cowley, she said the dilapidated South Seas Poultry Farm is one of countless examples of local economic development (LED) projects in the province that have not benefited the community at all, despite the millions of public funds that were forked out to fund them. June A former ANC councillor landed a cushy job as Ndlambe’s commonage manager at R23,000 a month, but little headway had been made in addressing the myriad problems at Kruisfontein commonage in Alexandria which resulted in a court order against the municipality in 2017. Stray cattle, unbranded animals, disease, lack of fencing, failure to control use of the commonage and prolific alien invasive vegetation were among the issues the municipality was instructed to address in the court order granted to Agri Eastern Cape.
The EFF fired a broadside at Ndlambe Municipality in June, accusing it of nepotism and singling out mayor Phindile Faxi for allegedly deceiving people about housing projects. In response, the municipality accused the EFF of “malicious and personal” electioneering. EFF interim regional core Xolisa Runeli and Ward 7 convenor Onele Msesiwe brought a litany of concerns to Talk of the Town saying the land and housing issue was foremost on their minds.
A pall of black smoke enveloped Campbell Street outside the Ndlambe municipal offices in June as EFF members burnt tyres in protest against the alleged demolition and removal of gravestones at an old disused gravesite at Esleyini in Nemato. EFF member Xolisa Runeli was most vocal on what he considered an affront to his ancestors and the beliefs of black people in general.
Within a week of being commissioned, and in conjunction with Mphele Engineers, Viv Dell and his men had cleared and levelled a large area at the Port Alfred landfill site and created paths for vehicles to follow and dump their refuse at the appropriate section of the dump. It was a bright new beginning for the landfill site which had been mismanaged for years.
Following months of to-and-froing on the Ndlambe annual budget the gloves were off, with both the Ndlambe Ratepayers Forum (NRF) and the Port Alfred Residents and Ratepayers Association (Parra) claiming foul. After approving a tabled budget setting the property rates increase at 6.4%, council changed this to 9% to reduce a deficit. The NRF and Parra proposed that Ndlambe could have kept the increase to 7% if they made cuts to line items like expenditure on uniforms, casuals, catering and overtime.
A beach buggy driver was saved from harm after his vehicle caught fire at the corner of Becker Street and Southwell Road. Jerry McComb was driving in Becker Street at around 9.45am and was about to turn
into Southwell Road to go fishing when the unexpected fire occurred. A woman walking behind the beach buggy yelled repeatedly at McComb after noticing fire at the back of the vehicle.
It was a tough year for many South Africans, and specifically those living in the drought-stricken and impoverished Eastern Cape, but many showed their mettle on Mandela Day by giving of themselves for just 67 minutes and, in turn, giving something back to their communities. Although this year’s celebration commemorates Mandela’s 100th birthday, it appeared that fewer local businesses and organisations participated this year.
Chinese investors may soon be doing business in Sarah Baartman District Municipality if memorandums of understanding (MOU) progress into trade agreements. Five visiting Chinese companies – three involved in construction, one in imports and exports and one in foreign investment – signed the MOUs with Sarah Baartman mayor Eunice Kekana and acting municipal manager Unathi Daniels after a one-day investment and cooperation conference at the Royal St Andrews Hotel.
A retired doctor and his houseguests endured a terrifying night-time robbery in his Port Alfred holiday home, in which he was viciously beaten with a hammer by assailants who wanted his heirloom Rolex watch. Although the incident happened in July, no word of the attack got out until Dr Heyter Brandt, 75, contacted Talk of the Town by e-mail and the tenant of the cottage at his Hill Street premises, Johnny Scholtz, came to the TotT offices in August.
After a tough week at the beginning of August of not having water, some for up to five days, Ndlambe residents, specially ward 10, approached TotT offices one after the other hoping to find a reason for the outages. Ward 9 was another affected area, where water had been at low pressure or simply not running since Sunday August 5 up until the afternoon of Tuesday August 7. A common grievance expressed by the majority of complainants was the lack of notice from Ndlambe Municipality.
There was a poor turnout for Ndlambe Municipality’s public participation meeting at the Memorial Hall mid-August about proposals regarding operations over the 2018/2019 festive season.
Marselle community members were anxiously anticipating the rollout of RDP housing in their area, with an update given by Ward 3 councillor Boniswa James on two projects that are in the pipeline. There was a big turnout by community members at a quarterly meeting presented by James at the community hall in Marselle in August. Among those present were Ward 8 councillor Thembani Mazana, Ndlambe Municipality housing manager Olwethu Jobela and community stakeholders.
Sunshine Coast Tourism (SCT) was identified by the Department of Tourism in partnership with the SA Local Government Agency as one of the best case studies on the running of a tourism organisation. SCT was subsequently asked to do a presentation at a local government tourism peer learning session at Mpekeweni, attended by delegates from all over the Eastern Cape.
The case of Tonny Donile, who was accused of murdering of local businessman Noel Maddocks in August 2016, continued in the Port Alfred Regional Court in September while the Maddocks family and friends had to endure another version of what happened on that fateful night. Donile was charged with two counts of murder, the first relating to the death of an alleged burglar at Donile’s tavern in Runeli Drive in Nemato in 2010, along with the Maddocks murder.
The closure of Southwell School, a farm school, and transfer of its pupils to Ikamva Lesizwe Combined School in Kenton has seen pupils stranded since a contingency plan to provide transport for them has been mired in issues of payment. The Eastern Cape Department of Transport made an arrangement with taxi drivers to provide transport for the pupils when they still attended Southwell School. Then circumstances changed when the school closed and the pupils started attending Ikamva Lesizwe.
We reported that it would be a fun filled day for all who attended the Talk of the Town Heritage Festival, which happened on Saturday September 22 at the Port Alfred High School fields and clubhouse, with over 45 stalls booked, great food, competitions and entertainment for young and old.
The Royal St Andrews Hotel was announced as the winner of the 2018 Lilizela Best of the Best Hotels in the Eastern Cape, at a glittering awards ceremony held in East London on Thursday, September 20.
Service roads alongside the R72 had been virtually destroyed due to the heavy machinery used in the ongoing roadworks project, and residents were angry about not being able to access their homes without great difficulty. Sanral, who own the national roads throughout the country, decided some time back that the R72 between the Great Fish River and Alexandria required an upgrade, and appointed Murray and Roberts as main contractor on the project. Gibb was appointed as consulting engineers. Work began toward the end of 2015.
A Cannon Rocks resident blew the whistle on a new pipeline being laid in the coastal village, after discovering it was not included in a previous environmental impact assessment (EIA) and that additional brine would be discharged on the beach from an increased capacity reverse osmosis (RO) plant. New resident Marcia Fargnoli alerted TotT to the project after contacting the company that did the previous impact studies for Amatola Water for Ndlambe Municipality’s bulk potable water supply pipeline from Cannon Rocks to Alexandria.
A feather in Ndlambe Municipality’s cap, two beaches were once again been awarded Blue Flag status and a third, Kenton Middle Beach, is a pilot Blue Flag beach. Deputy director of community protection services Fanie Fouche said Kelly’s Beach in Port Alfred had received its 14th consecutive Blue Flag and Kariega Main Beach in Kenton- on-Sea had achieved its 10th Blue Flag. They have never lost Blue Flag status since they first received it.
Consistency was the call by the official opposition at the council chambers on Wednesday October 17 with respect to squatters at the site of the Ekuphumleni 564 housing project in Kenton. Building houses at the Ekuphumleni site has been a contentious issue since its initiation in 2015 following several protests where residents of the area burnt tyres and even threw stones at passing vehicles as a way to get the municipality to listen to their plight.
More than a year after it was meant to open, the Integrated Emergency Response Centre at Bushman’s River was finally handed over to Ndlambe Municipality by Sarah Baartman District Municipality on October 19 as we reported in November. The response centre replaces the old firehouse which used to house a fire engine for the Kenton/Bushman’s area.
The reluctance of police to act against the owners of straying unmarked cattle in Ndlambe has been ascribed to the fact that some SAPS members are themselves owners of such straying beasts. A Bathurst policeman, Sergeant Mzamo Bryan Sansom, was outed as the owner of frequently straying cattle in the village after an incident last year in which seven of his animals wandered into the Bathurst Showgrounds and impoundment procedures were initiated.
On November 1, Ndlambe was awarded second place in the Eastern Cape Province Greenest Municipality Awards. Ndlambe also won the Govan Mbeki award for the best human settlements upgrading project for its work on the 595 homes it erected at the Ekuphumleni township in Kenton-on-Sea.
It came as a shock to many Port Alfred residents to hear that the Child Welfare cluster foster home in High Street would close down in December. TotT first learned of the impending closure when a resident alerted us that the property in High Street was for sale, then the matter was discussed on social media. The Child Welfare committee eventually released a statement saying the home was closing for cost reasons, and that the children would live with their foster mothers.
There was a great deal of anticipation and a full house at the last Port Alfred Business Forum meeting of the year where global conference speaker and consultant to major international companies, Michael Jackson, spoke of revitalising the local economy by thinking outside the box and collaborating. Jackson said that the past was not an exemplar for the future, and the old ways of doing things no longer work.
Ndlambe Municipality has to come up with more than R13-million to pay the Municipal Workers Retirement Fund after failing to pay the full amount it was obliged to pay over a period of six years. Of the money the Grahamstown High Court (it is still called that) ordered the municipality to pay to the Fund, R9,705,745 is interest.
Convicted murderer Tonny Donile was defiant as he left the Port Alfred Regional Court and even raised his middle finger to the gallery after being sentenced to an effective 27 years in prison for one count of culpable homicide, another for housebreaking and a third count for murder. Donile was arrested in August 2016 and has been in police custody since then. Despite many court appearances over the intervening period where the accounts of forensic witnesses, police and medical personnel were heard, Donile remained adamant that he was innocent of both the murder of
NEW HANDS: The keys to the Fish River Sun were handed over to the department of rural development and land reform (DRDLR) on Friday, and they in turn handed them over to The Mantis Collection. From left are general manager of the Sun Boardwalk Mike van Vuuren, DRDLR acting chief director of the commission for the Eastern Cape Zama Memela, DRDLR director of legal at the national office Isaac Peter, Mantis Collection director Carl Haller and DRDLR
HAPPIER TIMES: Former Ndlambe infrastructure director Xolani Masiza pictured at the farewell party held for him at the Port Alfred Civic Centre when he resigned for ‘greener pastures’ at Alfred Nzo District Municipality. He appeared in the news this year when he was arrested along with other officials from Alfred Nzo on charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption, and contraventions of the Municipal Finance Management Act
SAD LOSS: Gambit, the widely known friendly giraffe who would welcome visitors to the Mansfield Game Reserve, died there in April, but TotT has established that Gambit was euthanised after an incident with a game ranger, and did not die after a short illness as originally reported by the reserve
TRADITIONAL GARB: Chief Khoisan SA, left, and Shane Plaatjies wore jackal skin loincloths and carried a bow and quiver of metal- tipped arrows as well as a pact stick, which is a hollow piece of decorated bamboo used in the same way as shaking hands
MAKING QUICK PROGRESS: Cannon Rocks residents are concerned about a new pipeline being laid in the village without an environmental impact assessment being done
VIPS HAND IT TO THE SURFERS: The week-long Royal St Andrews Hotel Amanzi Festival in April ended with the hotel’s sponsored Port Alfred Classic, presented by Quiksilver. Giving a shout-out to the surfers at the Port Alfred Classic launch were, from left, Linda Bekker co-owner of the Royal St Andrews Hotel, Sunshine Coast Tourism manager Sand Birch, Amanzi Festival organiser Sxeaks Nkwinti, Suki Ntwasa from the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, Martin Bekker, co-owner of the Royal South Andrews Hotel and Zuki Makasi of Gijima Sport
CLOSE CALL: Sergeant Mzwanele Mafu in the vehicle he was driving when he was shot at three times on the road to Peddie in November 2017. A man was arrested and appeared in court on attempted murder charges. Mafu told us the story in January
ON THE ATTACK: EFF members Onele Msesiwe, left, and Xolisa Runeli have accused Ndlambe Municipality of a litany of wrongs, from nepotism to deceiving the community about housing