Looking back on 2021

Voice of Parkwood chair Paul Phillips, left, with Parkwood leadership at the last meeting about the Greater Retreat Housing Development.

This past year has been a mixed bag for many, and the Southern Mail has been there throughout to cover the highs and lows.

The year started with the news of the death of Aubrey de Wet, the former principal of Fairview Primary School, who lost his battle with Covid-19 (“Former Fairview Primary School principal leaves legacy of love,” Southern Mail, January 27).

Mr De Wet, 60, who lived in Parkwood, taught at Fairview from 1985 until 1988 as a physical education teacher. He was then promoted to head of Department at Stephen Road Primary and was there from 1989 until 1994. In 1995, he took the position as deputy principal at Fairview Primary and in 2009 he became principal.

Mr De Wet said his father would always say, “If you live your life right and with love, everything else will fall into place.”

In the month of love, Valentine’s Day in Lavender Hill took on an even more special meaning when Wicht Court Association (WCA) members hosted a beauty pageant for the residents (“Wicht Court Association creates unity through love,” Southern Mail, February 17).

In March, a row over housing developments for Parkwood Estate was attributed to “a miscommunication” (“Fairways, Parkwood call a truce,” Southern Mail, March 31).

Parkwood and Fairways community leaders met on Saturday March 27 to address both parties’ concerns about the need for affordable housing and its impact on surrounding communities.

The Fairways Residents’ and Civic Association had complained that the development could see up to 35 000 people settling in the area, increasing traffic volumes, undermining security and threatening property values.

Paul Phillips, chairperson for the Voice of Parkwood non-profit organisation, said the message from the association had been hostile and “apartheid-styled”.

The man accused of killing Steenberg police officer Sergeant Malose Percival Libelo, 38, appeared in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday April 22 (“Hawks arrest alleged cop killer,” Southern Mail, April 21).

Sergeant Libelo, of Capricorn, was shot dead, while off-duty on Tuesday April 13.

His body was found with a gunshot wound to the head in Disa Street in front of the Basmillian shop in Capricorn.

Residents sift through rubble after a fire in Village Heights.

Tragedy struck a family when 8-year-old Sadie Grootboom and her father, Lesley, 37, died in a blaze at their home at Village Heights informal settlement in the early hours of Saturday May 15 (“Girl, 8, and dad die in Village Heights fire,” Southern Mail, May 19).

The rest of the family – Quwyn, 7, Chelsea, 11, Nadine, 22, and their mother, Luzelle, 42, were rushed to hospital.

In June, police arrested a high-profile gang member in Parkwood and residents, joined by Rise Up, a Parkwood organisation, and People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) held a placard demonstration calling for an end to ongoing violence (“Police arrest notorious gangster in Parkwood,” June 30).

In July, the Southern Mail reported that We Are Survivors (Singabasindileyo), an anthem written by former Steenberg resident Saalim Ismail and produced by Tasleem Karriem, to spread a message of hope during the pandemic, had won both the regional 021 Award and national City Award for “Song of the Year” (“Anthem scoops two awards,” Southern Mail, July 7).

Grassy Park residents pleaded with the authorities to clamp down on the theft of water meters in the area (“Water meter theft rife in Grassy Park,” Southern Mail, August 4), and neighbourhood watches urged the residents to join them on patrols and report crime in an effort to stamp out the crime.

The community of Ferness Estate near Ottery was left shocked when a 65-year-old woman was found dead in her Azana Street home on Tuesday September 1 (“Elderly woman found dead in her home,” Southern Mail, September 29). According to the police, the woman’s home was also ransacked. A laptop and a cellphone were taken, and a flat-screen TV was found outside the house.

The Western Cape government paved the way to move early childhood development (ECD) from its social development department to its education department, at its first ECD Forum from Monday October 4 to Tuesday October 5, but the move left Yumna Allie, chairperson of the Grassy Park ECD Forum, with “anxiety and concern” (“ECD department migration causes concern,” Southern Mail, October 13).

In November, we reported that axed Heathfield High principal Wesley Neumann had vowed that his fight with the Western Cape Education Department was far from over and that he was considering appealing a disciplinary ruling that saw him sacked for misconduct (“Fight has just started, says axed principal,” Southern Mail, November 5).

Last year, the WCED called Mr Neumann to appear before a disciplinary hearing to face six charges of misconduct (“Principal’s future pending,” Southern Mail, October 7 2020). This after Mr Neumann and other principals and teachers had voiced concerns about the reopening of schools before and during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They were also concerned about adequate provision of personal protection equipment (PPE) and what they felt was the improbability of social distancing because of class sizes.

His disciplinary hearing lasted 25 days, during which parents, teachers and pupils protested in his defence. He was found guilty of all the charges on October 13.

EC Primary School in Grassy Park is appealing for help following two incidents of vandalism (“Vandal causes R10 000 damage to primary school,” Southern Mail, December 15).

On two consecutive days, Wednesday and Thursday December 8 and 9, the same man was caught on camera breaking into the school at 5am on both mornings, causing damage to the alarm and fibre cabling.

The perpetrator is still at large.

The incident has sparked fears that schools will again be vulnerable to criminals during the holidays. At the beginning of the year, the WCED reported 59 incidents of burglary and vandalism at schools across the province during the December/January school holidays.