The Kommetjie community was rocked by the murder of Wally Petersen on Monday afternoon October 31.
“The whole community is absolutely stunned,” said his friend, Lappies Labuschagne.
Soon after his death, people started gathering in the pub for a wake.
“No one could speak, their eyes were so red,” he said. “He was such a kind man and did so much for the community.”
Mr Petersen, who was 56, was found by a neighbour, at about 3pm. He had been stabbed and was lying bleeding on the steps outside his house. The neighbour called
Komwatch and CMR.
Ian Kloppers of NSRI tried to resuscitate Mr Petersen, but he died in the arms of two of his close friends who had rushed to help.
There were signs of a struggle in his house. Komwatch were aware of a male suspect and that the police had arrested a female suspect.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said a woman, 32, from Pelican Park, had been arrested on a charge of murder.
Mr Petersen was known for his extensive environmental projects. He was a founder of the non-profit organisation Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Group (KEAG) – a source of great pride to him in its almost 25 years of work.
The Kommetjie Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (KRRA) and the Far South Peninsula Community Forum expressed their shock at the death of this “much loved and respected environmentalist”.
“This is second loss of a local leader this year (Lesley Shackleton was the other), and the broader community, as well as immediate friends and family, are feeling it acutely,” said KRRA chairman Patrick Dowling. “Wally was one of the founder members of the Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Group in 1992, when it was formed in response to a mass baboon cull by the authorities.
“Since then, Wally has undertaken a huge array of environmental rehabilitation and social upliftment projects in the Cape Peninsula and beyond, working with national and local government departments as well as other NGOs and community groups.
“An ecologist by training and eclectic innovator and writer, Wally was a very well-known authority on local flora and fauna, marine and wetland ecosystems. His knowledge, deep belief in and affection for fellow species and their right to cohabit our living spaces with people inspired many and helped grow environmental consciousness in the Far South.
“He loved people no less, irrespective of age, background, status, creed or colour and was consistently happy to put effort and imagination with others into sustainable community building. We deplore his violent death and commit to taking his essential work forward,” said Mr Dowling.
“He was very much a doer, not a talker,” said Mr Labuschagne. “What was awesome about Wally is that he never bragged about himself. He was always talking about the wonderful people he worked with or how well they had done.”
He fund-raised extensively for his combined community and environmental projects. “All that money went to the community. You can ask anyone in Ocean View about Wally, especially the poor people – they know him very well,” said Mr Labuschagne.
“He was so committed to the environment and lived on a shoestring,” said environmentalist Kim Kruyshaar.
His projects included Coastcare, where people earned an income cleaning up the coast, which included rehabilitating the sand dunes – formerly used as a municipal dump – at Witsands; art from recycling, which became a business run by Masiphumelele women who now export their art; and the initial stages of the Shark Spotters, among other things.
Even the environmental books and booklets he wrote for education purposes were used to raise funds for poorer communities such as Redhill.
“Just yesterday he was so excited about a youth development project and a clean-up in Ocean View,” said Mr Labuschagne on Tuesday.
He was instrumental in getting the City of Cape Town to rehabilitate Skilpadsvlei, which has been a success story in the reintroduction of the endangered western leopard toads.
There was very little Mr Petersen wasn’t involved in, from permaculture to biodiversity to recycling or being the first person phoned if a whale washed up. If something needed doing, he did it himself. If the roads were littered, he would pick up the litter. If there were alien plants that needed removing, he would remove them.
“I think he cleared more alien plants than anyone else,” said Mr Labuschagne. “He was always active and busy, always cheering people on.”
Ms Kruyshaar said: “He was always very private. He was one of the quiet people who just got on and did the stuff. There aren’t many people like that. It is quite a loss.” Mr Petersen is survived by his mother and sister.