Singing and dancing in the rain

The spontaneous joyful celebration of rain after six years of drought has made Aberdeen farmers Gert and Pietie van Rensburg into instant internet stars!


During a trip to Graaff-Reinet last Tuesday morning, a despondent Pietie was encouraged by a pharmacy assistant to have faith that the rain would come. They last had significant rain on their farm Herbousvlei, 60 km outside Aberdeen, in March 2011, and since 2016 have had to feed their stock every day. Many times they have been ready to give up.

Later on Tuesday, a friend sent them a video of rain falling in Aberdeen, and they were thrilled when heavy soaking rains started to fall on the farm during the afternoon.

The couple decided to get into their bakkie to see whether there was water flowing into their dam, but found only mud. Whilst driving through the veld, to their great delight they then saw a river of water flowing strongly across the track towards the dam. “The excitement was just too much,” said Pietie, relating how Gert jumped out of the bakkie and ran into the water. She started filming his antics as he jumped around in the water, then lay down and was tumbled along by the fast-flowing stream.

As well as Gert’s happy frolicking in the water, what caught the imagination of viewers of the video was Pietie’s uninhibited singing. “I even got the words wrong, I was so excited and the moment was just too much!” she confided to the Advertiser. Pietie said that she originally took the video to send to Burre Burger, whose drought relief organisation has helped keep them going with donations of feed. However the sheer delight of the couple caught everyone’s imagination, and by the weekend, the video had been viewed over 100 000 times, with many thousands of shares.  Initially the couple was rather reluctant to share what had been a private moment of celebration, and they were amazed at the interest it generated. “If it can help make people aware of how bad the situation is for our farmers, and perhaps they can donate towards drought relief, then I am happy,” said Pietie.  She has asked that anyone who has been moved to make a contribution gives to Droogtehulp Met Burre Burger, FNB cheque account 62721858522 at branch 200406.

Two days later, the river was once again dry, but there was some water in the dam. “Our hearts feel so much lighter now. The dam didn’t get much water but at least it’s a start,” said Pietie. “I believe the Lord is preparing the dam to be filled soon.”

Congratulations to Aberdeen Secondary Matrics

Aberdeen Secondary’s Class of 2019 achieved a 43.5% pass rate, up from the previous year’s 35%.

Ten of the 23 full-time learners passed, of whom six qualified to study for a bachelor’s degree, and three qualified to study a diploma course. Those who were unsuccessful are all eligible to write supplementary exams in June.

The good quality passes achieved by most of the learners is a reflection not only of their efforts, but also the dedication of the teachers, many of whom gave up their holidays to give extra classes.

The top student is Marinda Maarman, who achieved distinctions in English FAL, history and life orientation. Marinda is the first pupil this century to achieve three distinctions! This articulate young lady, who was the school’s head girl last year, attributes her good results to a great support system and hard work throughout her school career. She plans to study education of UFS, specialising in languages.

Maphelo Ntsibolane is another matriculant who plans to study education, in Cape Town. “I studied very hard, and didn’t even sleep some nights,” she said. She explained that she wanted to make her parents proud, and to emulate her successful sister.

Mkulile Botmani wants to make the most of his passion to engage with people, and plans to study industrial psychology at UWC. The desire to be a role model to his younger brother motivated him to achieve.

Benito Steenkamp, another with a bachelor pass, overcame many hurdles during his matric year, including the death of his grandfather during the June exams. His dream is to study sound engineering, but due to lack of finances, has decided to first complete an office administration course at college, for which he has a bursary.

Although obviously disappointed that the school achieved less than a 50% pass rate, Principal Timotheus Webb is pleased that the interventions initiated by the school in 2019 seem to have paid off. Extra study sessions were offered to learners throughout the year by the teachers, as well as weekend classes and winter school provided by the Department of Education in Graaff-Reinet.

The school faced many challenges during the last year, including the serious illness of three teachers, who later passed away. All three teachers were absent for prolonged periods due to their poor health, which put tremendous pressure on the school’s management team as their workload and responsibilities were drastically increased, and some classes were inevitably left without teachers. 

At this stage, the school is still not fully staffed for this year, although Webb hopes that this will be finalised soon. He would like to see more involvement from the parents this year, with improved communication and support for the children from their families.

New SAPS constables for Aberdeen

Aberdeen SAPS has been fortunate to secure the services of two new constables for six months for their workplace skills development phase. The two young men, both of whom grew up in Aberdeen, were part of the 2019 intake at the SAPS Training Academy in Bhisho, and passed out in December.

Cst Arnaut Frazenburg (23) matriculated from Aberdeen Secondary School in 2013, and first applied to join the SAPS the following year. When this was unsuccessful, he spent as a general worker with SANParks, as well as a local construction company. He also spent some time working as a barman in a tavern in Aberdeen, and during this time he saw many problems associated with under-age drinking and alcohol abuse.  

Frazenburg knew from a young age that he wanted to join the police, and was inspired in this by his father, a warrant officer with the Aberdeen detective unit. “Through my father’s example, and what I saw for myself in the community, I wanted to help make a change for the better,” he explained. He is adamant that he will not abuse his powers as a SAPS officer, but will use his position to help solve some of the problems in the community.

Cst Zinzin-Robin Kameel (24) attended primary school in Aberdeen, and matriculated from Hoer Volkskool in 2013. On leaving school, he was uncertain what career he wanted to pursue, and stayed home for a year before joining his brother in East London, where he worked in a cancer care unit. He applied to join SAPS in 2017, and was accepted the following year for the 2019 intake.

He also had family members working for the SAPS, and this influenced his decision to serve in the police. Since starting work in December, he has spent two days in Klipplaat, as well as time at the Aberdeen station. Two areas that he finds particularly concerning are domestic violence, often fuelled by alcohol, and the many cases of housebreaking that occurred over the festive season. “Aberdeen was my first choice for this placement, and I hope that I can make a positive contribution to the safety of the community during my time here,’ he said.

Aalwynhof Residents get Christmas treats

Christmas came a day early for the men and women who live at the Aalwynhof Home for the Aged in Aberdeen.

Just over a month ago, local resident Nadia Holtzhausen shared on facebook her dream to collect some ‘spoils’ for the 29 residents of the Home, to give them a treat for Christmas. Her post was picked up and shared beyond her wildest dreams, and parcels arrived from complete strangers living as far away as Johannesburg and Cape Town. Many folk also made donations, and from these, Nadia was able to purchase a whole pig, two sheep and 20kg of chicken pieces to give to the Home for the residents’ meals.

She was assisted enormously by local farmers Colleen Ogilvie and Brian Geard, who helped to coordinate the local donations and publicise the project.

On Christmas Eve, those residents who are mobile gathered in the lounge, and Nadia and her helpers distributed the brightly-coloured parcels to the residents. Each one received toiletries, some sweet and savoury snacks, a new towel and other assorted goodies. Thanks to some generous bakers, a tasty spread of eats was served after the handing out of the presents. The Home’s staff were not forgotten, and each of the carers was also given a gift bag of treats.

Nadia is extremely grateful to all who helped to make her dream a reality, either with donations or practical help. The Home’s manager, Nico Kemp, thanked Nadia on behalf of the residents.

Special Christmas Birthday

Harry Magewu of Thembalesizwe, Aberdeen, will have a very special Christmas this year, as he will celebrate his 100th birthday on December 25th!

Harry was born in Pearston, but moved to Aberdeen in 1960 for economic reasons. He was a shearer by trade, and by all accounts was one of the best. Cllr Willem Säfers of Aberdeen first met him when he was as a young boy growing up on Skietfontein farm.  “Harry could shear over 100 sheep in one day with hand clippers – he was the only one who could do that,” said Säfers adding that at that time, the rate of pay was 5c per sheep.

He continued working well past what most people would consider retirement age, only finally hanging up his clippers at the age of 92. Keeping busy helped him keep healthy, and he always looked after his body. He never smoked or drank alcohol, and is a greatly-respected member of his community. Harry is still an active member of the Bantu Church of Christ, where for many years he held a leadership position.

His wife Jane passed away in 2003, and of the couple’s eight children, only their daughter Buyiswa Ngcongco survives. There are many grandchildren and great grandchildren, but none of the family seemed sure of exactly how many!

Last Friday, a party was organised for Harry by the local ANC branch, attended by about 40 friends and family members. Although his body is now frail and he can only walk short distances on crutches, Harry’s mind remains sharp, and he took great delight in reliving the excitement of the party with one of his young relatives afterwards.

A large official party is due to take place later this week, organised by the District Municipality.

Book club Christmas lunch

The members of the Aberdeen Book Club enjoyed a splendid Christmas lunch last week at the Kamdebo Stal in Aberdeen.

The Book Club was started about 13 years ago, and four of the original members are still part of the group. Unlike some more ‘serious’ book clubs, where all members read a copy of same book one month and discuss it in depth, the members of the Aberdeen group all pay in every month, and have a turn once a year to buy books of their choice. The ladies meet once a month, ostensibly to discuss the books read since the last meeting, but the refreshments provided by the hostess are always a key attraction too! Members then borrow the books that interest them. As the ladies have an age range from 35 to 87 and very varying tastes in books, this method works much better.

At the lunch, the ladies enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Hannelie and her team, and the unanimous verdict was that it was definitely better than risking life and limb on the busy N9 to eat in Graaff-Reinet!

Bridge Painting for Christmas

About six months ago, two young men from Aberdeen decided that they needed to give something back to the town they grew up in. Zettie Darries and Rolavian ‘Lollo’ Jackson saw many areas where ordinary people could make a difference, and also saw many youngsters with time on their hands and nothing constructive to do.

Their first project was to repaint the stones on the hill outside Aberdeen, which spell out the name of the town. Once this was achieved, they joined forces with some other residents who were working with children to clean up certain areas of the town -one of their early successes was repainting the kerbs and clearing up the litter in the small gardens around the Dutch Reformed Church in the centre of the town.  The men are very organised, and have reflective jackets for the youngsters, who feel proud to be part of a team at work in the town.

Their latest project was to paint the road bridge on Hope Street, linking the town to Lotusville and Thembalesizwe. About three years ago, another resident had donated paint to brighten it up, but over time, the bright rainbow colours had faded, become chipped, and attracted graffiti.

A lady who was in town to renovate a house donated some blue and white paint to the men, and on 1 December, armed with paint and brushes, they set about revitalising the bridge. “We wanted to make the bridge look good before everyone comes home to visit their families over Christmas,” explained Jackson, adding that they had received some good-natured flak from people who asked why they had used DA colours! “We never even thought of that, we were just grateful for the paint we were given,” he said. In fact it is far from a “DA blue”, and most people agree that it looks fresh and cool. 

For this project, Elandre Heynse joined up with Jackson and Darries, and he quickly became an integral part of the workforce.

The men still have some blue and white paint left over, and would like to use this to create a South African flag in stones, on the hill near the Aberdeen sign. They have seen something similar outside Laingsburg, and were very taken which how attractive it looked. The men are appealing for donations of small amounts of red, green, black and yellow paint, so that can be completed early next year, once the children are back at school. “It was just the three of us, painting the bridge, but we really want to involve the youngsters again when we paint the flag,” said Darries.

Anyone who would like to help with paint can contact Zettie Darries on 060 310 2895

Garden Club Christmas party

Last Friday evening the members of the Aberdeen Garden and Social Club held their final meeting for the year.

Host Judith Dardis gave an overview of the events during the year. There were only two trips out of Aberdeen, to very contrasting farms. Harold and Catherine Steven-Jennings are fortunate to have water, and shared their passion for holistic gardening. Dickie and Colleen Ogilvie, on the other side of Aberdeen, shared their experiences of the grim realities of the current drought. Both visits were very thought-provoking.

Armchair travelling was also experienced, with Dick and Estelle van Wyk sharing the magnificence of the Sheikh Zayed Great Mosque in Abu Dhabi, and Sonette Müller ‘transporting’ the group to Hong Kong with tales of her recent visit.

The inclusion of “Social” in the name, due to the scarcity of gardens to visit during the drought, led to some other interesting meetings, on such diverse topics as making doughnuts and recycling. The year started with a High Tea, and on other occasions, members enjoyed pancakes, and a braai.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people willing to host ‘garden’ meetings, as there are very few gardens because of the drought,” explained Dardis, adding that most farmers are too busy feeding stock to host visitors. The way forward for the Club will be discussed at the first meeting next year.

After the business part of the evening was concluded, members and guests enjoyed a magnificent feast, made possible by contributions from many of those present. The spacious stoep and garden at the Dardis home was lit with festive lights, and the Christmas carols playing in the background set the scene for a wonderful evening for all.

Christmas service at St Mary’s and All Saints

Christmas came a little early for the congregants of St Mary’s and All Saints Church in Aberdeen last Sunday.

This small Anglican church is a chapelry of St James’ Church in Graaff-Reinet, and usually holds services once a month. Regular members of the congregation were delighted to welcome some guests to the annual Christmas service, as well as those who are unable to attend regularly due to other commitments.

The service was conducted by the rector, Archdeacon Dr Mark Marais, with readings and prayers by his wife Moyra.

After the service, a bring-and-share lunch was enjoyed by all at the home of stalwarts of the church John and Jean Watermeyer. A time of fellowship, catching up with old friends, and getting to know new folk brought 2019 to a fitting close.