Looking back at 2023

Biological sisters Cassidy and Lauren met for the first time last month and have been inseparable.

Southern Mail takes a look back at the news that made headlines in 2023, reflecting on the moments worth remembering.

In January two sisters, who were adopted by different families when they were babies, reconnected after we wrote about Cassidy van der Westerhuizen’s search for her biological family (“Soul sisters connect through article,” Southern Mail, January 25). Lauren Johnston, of Ottery, who had a similar adoption story, then contacted the Southern Mail and DNA tests confirmed the two were biological sisters. The sisters are however still in search of their mother.

Overcome Heights residents protested outside the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court, in February, against an accused rapist.

In February, a Muizenberg lawyer appeared in court on sex crime charges (“Sex crime accused appears in court,” Southern Mail, February 15). The man was arrested in 2021 after several children from Overcome Heights, Capricorn and Seawinds came forward to say he had paid them to have sex with them at the Muizenberg beach dunes and bungalows. He appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court, where he pleaded not guilty to 25 counts of sexual offences involving boys under the age of 18. The case is still ongoing.

In March, the upgrades for Freedom Park informal settlement in Ottery were finally coming along and are nearly completed (“Freedom Park upgrade on track,” Southern Mail, March 29). The project, which commenced in February 2021, is a major upgrade for 159 families who will receive Breaking New Ground (BNG) homes and serviced plots.

The first phase of the upgrades at Freedom Park was completed earlier this year.

In April, Wynberg residents complained about squatters camped near the Wynberg transport interchange (“Wynberg residents fed up with squatters,” Southern Mail, April 19). They said the vagrants blocked pedestrians using the subway and were behind burglaries and robberies in the area.

In May, the taxi fraternity was rocked by the killing of Charmaine Bailey, the former chairwoman for the Wynberg/Hout Bay Taxi Association (“Shock to taxi industry as ‘iron lady’ slain,“ Southern Mail, May 10). She was shot and killed by an unknown gunmen in Maynard Road in Wynberg following a taxi meeting. No one has been arrested in the case, and the investigation is still ongoing.

In June, a Vrygrond non-profit organisation, Where Rainbows Meet, received R50 000 from a Dutch couple who cycled all the way from the Netherlands to South Africa to raise funds (“Cycling for funds from Netherlands to Vrygrond,” Southern Mail, May 31.)

In July, Overcome Heights shacks were made a little safer against fires (“Fighting fires at Overcome,” Southern Mail, July 9). The settlement has been plagued with many fires over the years that left hundreds of people destitute, but a fire-mitigation pilot project will now prevent fires from spreading between nearby shacks.

A team sprays a fire retardant on shacks to help prevent fires at Overcome Heights.

In August, the spotlight was once again on gun violence in Lotus River (“Shooting continues in Lotus River,” Southern Mail, August 16). Several people had been shot and killed in Buck Road and the broader Lotus River area, and a safety meeting was held to address the issue.

In September, the community of Cafda officially started their new neighbourhood watch to curb crime in the area (“New watch hopes to bring change in Cafda,” Southern Mail, September 6). Robberies, shootings and gang violence had increased in the area over the past few years.

In October, the community of Lavender Hill was gripped by gang violence and feared an all-out war after gang members were shot and killed (“Lavender Hill gang war leaves many hungry,” Southern Mail, October 18). Feeding organisations had to be assisted by law enforcement to continue the much-needed feeding schemes in the area, and several meetings were held to address the issue.

In November, a ceasefire was agreed upon by the gangs who were at the forefront of the tension and the violence after organisations and community leaders appealed to them for peace for matriculants writing their final exam (“Calls for ceasefire in Lavender Hill,” Southern Mail, November 1).

Ridaa Adams, Keenon Arrison and Danny Ross on the set of the Ottery film.

In December, the community of Ottery were thrilled when a feature film was shot in the area (“Film casts Cape Flats in new light,” Southern Mail, December 6). The movie, which hopes to shine a new light on the Cape Flats, is about the story of a man who struggles with his past and has to deal with a traumatic experience that occurred in Ottery. It will be aired next year.