Looking back at 2021

The Swan Lodge was gutted by a fire in November.

As 2021 draws to an end we look back at some of the stories that made headlines in the far south this year.

Following the devastating fire in Masiphumelele that left 6 000 people homeless in December 2020, the City of Cape Town built 30 to 50 temporary wood-and-corrugated-iron shacks a day in January to house the most vulnerable, including the elderly and disabled, while various national and local government departments worked on a permanent solution (“Relief in sight for Masi fire victims,” Echo, January 14).

The housing project was completed in April. The City had built 851 temporary shelters and had handed them over to victims of the fire by the end of April (“No more shelters for Masi Fire victims,” Echo April 22). The temporary structures will be replaced gradually by permanent ones as the City redesigns the area. However, the process was not without complication. In March, the City had to get a court interdict to stop Masiphumelele community leaders from interfering with plans to build temporary shelters on the Masiphumelele sports field (“Interdict clears way for Masi sports field shelters,” Echo March 25).

By mid-January, the Western Cape was bracing itself for the second Covid-19 wave.

The number of patients admitted for Covid-19 at False Bay Hospital had doubled from the beginning of January and the hospital was seeing more younger patients with low oxygen levels compared to the first surge (More burials, fewer beds as Covid second wave bites,” Echo, January 21).

At the end of January, Fish Hoek’s only video store, and the last VideoRite in the country, shut its doors after more than 30 years in the valley. Store owner Dennis Keet said the loss of trade during the Covid-19 pandemic, online streaming, and illegal downloading were the final nails in the coffin for the store (“Covid, Netflix, pirating kill Fish Hoek’s last video store,” Echo, January 28).

In February, Blessing Bveni, the man dubbed the Table Mountain Killer, was handed two life terms in the Western Cape High Court for the murders of cyclist Ian McPherson and pilot Doug Notten. He was also sentenced to 33 years for the attempted murder and aggravated robbery of Malcolm Esterhuizen, the assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm of David Bucklow, and the aggravated robbery of Megan and Domain Steel and of Mr Notten’s wife, Julia.

Bveni stabbed Mr Notten, 57, to death in January 2018 while he and his wife, Julia, were hiking near Echo Valley above Boyes Drive. A few weeks later, in March 2018, he stabbed Mr McPherson to death while the 68-year-old was cycling near Brigantine Avenue in Sun Valley (“Two life terms for Table Mountain Killer,” Echo, February 4).

In February, Fish Hoek Primary School’s new principal, Stefanie MacDonald said she was ready to face any challenge. She was the school’s former vice-principal and took over from Neill Kinkead-Weekes, who retired last year after being in education for 42 years. Ms MacDonald is the school’s first female principal (“New Primary School principal ready for any challenge,” Echo, February 11).

A peaceful beach protest against the national lockdown turned into chaos when We Are More (WAM) founder Craig Peiser was arrested for allegedly pulling a mask from a journalist’s face and for refusing to wear a mask in public.

He was charged with assault, crimen injuria, contravention of the Disaster Management Act, and failing to furnish a police officer with his particulars. He was sent for psychiatric evaluation after an outburst during his appearance in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court (“WAM founder sent for psychiatric evaluation,” Echo February 11).

Despite a difficult year for matrics countrywide, the class of 2020 achieved a pass rate of 76.2%, a drop of 5.1% from 2019’s 81.3%.

Fish Hoek High School’s pass rate increased from 98.3% in 2019 to 99.5% in 2020 while Masiphumelele High School’s pass rate increased from 66.3% in 2019 to 81.2% in 2020. Muizenberg High School’s pass rate increased from 87.5% in 2019 to 94.2% in 2020 while Simon’s Town School had an increase from 87.7% in 2019 to 90.4% in 2020 and Ocean View High School had a drop of 14.9% from 77.3% in 2019 to 62.4% in 2020. (“Matric class of 2020 celebrates,” Echo February 25)

In March, The Net, a daytime activity venue for the homeless, marked its one-year anniversary (“The Net celebrates its first anniversary,” Echo, March 4). The organisation currently operates from a property in Dunster Avenue.

U-Turn, a non-profit organisation that uses a voucher system to help the homeless, officially opened a service centre in Muizenberg on March 18 (“U-Turn helps homeless turn their lives around,” Echo, March 18).

Informal traders at Bayside Bazaar were evicted in April following the promulgation, in January, of the new Fish Hoek informal trading plan (“Traders leave Bayside Bazaar with heavy hearts,” Echo, April 15).

At the end of April, My Octopus Teacher, a Netflix documentary produced by Craig Foster in the kelp forests along the False Bay coast was awarded the best documentary Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards. The film won best documentary award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) two weeks earlier (“Oscar for my Octopus Teacher,” Echo, April 29).

In May, False Bay Hospital’s manager for medical services, Dr Wendy Waddington, left the hospital after 17 years. She started a new position at the chief directorate: strategy, at the head office of the Western Cape Health Department (“Dr Waddington bids False Bay Hospital farewell,” Echo, May 13).

In June, the province braced for the third Covid-19 wave with 11 811 deaths recorded on May 31 (“Third wave headed our way,” Echo June 3).

In July, we reported that the City of Cape Town, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, and Cape Nature agreed to the use of paintball guns in baboon management but with revised rules (“Baboons back in paintball gun cross hairs,” Echo July 1). This after it stated in May that no paintball guns would be used for baboon management following a call from the SPCA after the death of a juvenile baboon in Simon’s Town.

A skull was found on the mountainside near Peers Cave at the end of July. A preliminary test showed that it belonged to a child aged 3 to 5. Following the discovery of the skull, the SAPS search and rescue unit conducted an extensive search on the mountain and found a femur.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middelton said the remains had been sent for forensic analysis and they were awaiting the results (“Child’s skull found near Peers Cave,” Echo July 29).

In August, a 31-year-old parolee was arrested after he allegedly lured four Ocean View children into a wooded area, tied them up, and superglued their lips together (“Parolee in court after children tied up,” Echo, August 19).

In September, City water-quality results confirmed that Zandvlei is seeing pollution spikes hundreds of times higher than levels considered an acceptable risk to public health. The vlei was closed to the public in May for four months and partially reopened in October although swimming was not allowed. But it was short-lived and the vlei was once again closed after a sewage spill two weeks later. (“Zandvlei water quality results a shocker,” Echo, September 16).

In October, Fish Hoek residents were outraged when the City announced that it had placed a moratorium on memorial benches and no new benches or plaques could be installed on any beaches on the False Bay coastline.

The City said the memorial benches had always been a part of the Fish Hoek Beach environment, but the atmosphere on Jager’s Walk had changed from that of a coastal walkway to a memorial walkway (“City puts freeze on memorial benches,” Echo, October 7)

At the end of October, the municipal elections dominated the news with profiles on various party candidates in wards 61, 64 and 69, (“Candidates battle it out for ward 69,” Echo, October 21, “Candidates battle it out for ward 61” and “Ward 64 candidates square off,” Echo, October 28).

In November, the results of the municipal election showed that while the DA had held on to Cape Town, its support had taken a dip in the far south and smaller parties had made inroads in wards 61 and 69 (“DA takes dip in far south,” Echo, November 11).

At the end of November, the City and far south religious, civic, and non-profit organisations joined hands to establish a reward system for the homeless (“Reward system to be run for the homeless,” Echo November 18).

On Saturday, November 25, Kommetjie lost one of its oldest buildings, Swan Lodge, in a fire. The fire destroyed the local superette, an estate-agency office and flats (“History up in flames,” Echo, November 25).

At the beginning of December, about 500 people filled Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg on Sunday, December 5 to protest against Shell’s plans for 3D seismic surveys off the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast. A petition drawn up by 33-member coalition, Oceans not Oil, against Shell’s plans has garnered nearly 400 000 signatures and 18 500 written objections (“Protesters tell Shell to go to hell over Wild Coast,” Echo December 9).

We Are More (WAM) founder Craig Peiser at Fish Hoek Beach in February during a protest against the national lockdown. He was arrested for allegedly pulling a mask from a journalist’s face and for refusing to wear a mask in public.
Hundreds of people had been left destitute by a fire in Masiphumelele on December 17 last year.
Some of the first structures handed over in January to the Masiphumelele fire victims by the Department of Human Settlements.