Botter Ossies triumph

Aberdeen’s Botter Ossies have triumphed once again – not only did all four ladies finish the 25km trek that they had planned, but the raised the staggering amount of R37 000 for various projects in the town!

Since last year’s walk of 21km, the ladies have kept up their exercise regime and increased their fitness levels. They have all lost a substantial amount of weight, almost 90kg between them. Hannelie van der Westhuizen is leading the pack with a very impressive loss of 36.5kg, and Umelda van Rensburg commented that she found this year’s walk much easier, despite the extra distance, as she had 21kg less to carry with her!

The ladies and Niel Pienaar, who acted as their “second” for the walk, set off from the Dutch Reformed Church at 5:45, and made a detour into Aberdeen Self Catering, where they were treated to a freshly-brewed cup of steaming coffee by owner Jurgens Strydom before setting off along the N9 just after 6am.

They walked along the highway for 9km (with a break after 5km), then had breakfast before turning off on the gravel road towards Grootvlakte farm. Every 2km they had a water point.

The ladies all agree that the support from Niel Pienaar was invaluable, with one going as far to say that she did not think she would have been able to finish without his encouragement. The ladies walked in two pairs, and Niel probably covered almost as many kilometres as the official walkers as he went left his bakkie and went from group to group offering inspiration and fuelling their determination. Along the way, the walkers were also given a regular energy boost with sweets donated by Archie Norval and Nico Kemp (who also sponsored water), and bananas and more water from Martjie Jordaan of Foodzone.

The finish, after around six hours, was a very welcome sight indeed for the weary walkers. Elna van Niekerk had provided a well-deserved lunch for them all.

The beneficiaries are diverse, as each sponsor chose the cause that they would like to support. Kamdebo Primary will receive the largest amount, with Aalwynhof Home for the Aged and the project to clean up the town also doing very well. Other beneficiaries will include animal welfare, two crèches, a church, and a feeding scheme. Two overseas sponsors, family members of Debbie and Umelda, boosted the coffers with substantial donations, but the ladies were equally grateful to all the local residents and businesses who gave what they could. As somebody posted on social media after hearing of the successful completion of the walk, maybe Comrades’ next year?

Garden Club and recycling

Last Thursday, members of Aberdeen’s Garden and Social Club attended a very informative meeting, hosted by Judith and Tony Dardis.

Roelof and Lucille van der Merwe in turn explained their ideas for specific areas where the club members could help in their project to uplift Aberdeen, with particular emphasis on the garden areas of the town.

The van der Merwes already made a significant contribution to the town when they bought and renovated the historic building now housing Usave, which has proved a real asset to the town. Roelof also commissioned the Aberdeen promotional video, and sponsored what is hoped to be the first of many wall murals, next to the municipal offices.

Roelof van der Merwe discussing his idea

The importance of the state of the public gardens to the image of a town was stressed, and Roelof’s idea is that the members of the Garden Club team up with local farmers to take responsibility for the garden islands and different areas. It was also suggested that the schools should be involved, with each school making a garden.

Lucille van der Merwe talks enthusiastically about her ideas for the town gardens

Lucille spoke with great passion and enthusiasm about getting local businesses and guest houses to sponsor different public garden areas in town, with obviously a small sponsor board to acknowledge their support. She would also like to see many more trees on the entrance roads into the town.

There was support for a garden outside the police station, as an upliftment and encouragement. In fact, several years ago, plans had been drawn up to do exactly that, but nothing ever came of the idea after the municipality did not support it.

Other ideas that were discussed included a garden competition, the regular problem of unskilled tree cutting, and the need for plants to not only be drought-resistant, but also goat- and sheep-resistant, with all the wandering livestock!

It was decided that one of the islands around the church could be used as a trial area, and that a subcommittee would be formed to identify priorites.

The perennial litter problem was also discussed, and members were encouraged to join those from the Revivify group who would be tackling a town clean-up on the first Saturday after payday every month.

Ian Reed shows how to stuff an ecobrick

Ian Reed then spoke about recycling, with particular reference to ecobricks. He demonstrated how the concept works, which is basically filling empty plastic bottles with non-recyclable plastic, until they are full. He is working with local artist Cornelia Cronje at the schools, and they aim to encourage the children to make ecobricks which can be used to build seating and shelters in the school grounds. He recounted a touching tale of the enthusiasm of some of the Kamdebo Primary youngsters who had been very interested in the project: Ian had picked up some stray pieces of plastic in his street while walking home one day, when he was approached by two young boys. Instead of the usual request for money or bread, the boys begged him to give them his plastic rubbish, for their bottles!

Ian also spoke about recycled art (using everyday items such as bottle caps), and gave examples of projects that he had been involved in when he lived in Durban. There was a great interest in this, and he later shared photos of some of his previous work. His enthusiasm was contagious, and there was a determination to try some similar projects in Aberdeen, with community involvement, to make Aberdeen the centre of recycled art in the Karoo.

Host Judith Dardis also talked about the private recycling  facility in Graaff-Reinet, and encouraged members to sort and recycle their waste.

As always, the meeting ended with a sumptious tea, provided by some of the members.

Local councillor heading for Parliament

In a feature in the Advertiser for Women’s Day in August 2015, Samantha Graham (then Jankowich) was asked about her inspiration and goals. “I would really like to serve in the Provincial Legislature (as an MPL) or National Assembly (as an MP) at some stage. I live my passion.  I wake up every morning and I am excited about the day.  I am in a job that allows me to keep learning every single day and on really good days, I get to feel like I have managed to make a small difference in the life of another person. “

Few residents of Graaff-Reinet and Aberdeen can be left in any doubt about Cllr Graham’s passion for her work, and she certainly has made a difference in the lives of many people. And this year, it seems although her dream of serving on a wider scale is going to come true.

Following a rigorous nomination process, she has been placed at number six on the Eastern Cape Parliamentary List, with an overall position of 77 on the consolidated list for the National Assembly.  Currently, the DA in the Eastern Cape has nine Members of Parliament, and the DA nationally has 89 Members of Parliament in the National Assembly and 20 in the National Council of Provinces.  This means that barring any unforeseen circumstances, Samantha will be taking up her dream position as a Member of Parliament after the May elections. 

All Members of Parliament (MPs) and MPLs (Members of the Provincial Legislature) in the DA are allocated constituencies and become Constituency Leaders.  This is only finalised after the election, but given that Graham is the only person from this area, it would be a good fit for her to be given responsibility for the Dr Beyers Naude Constituency, an area she obviously knows and understands well.

MPs are expected to attend their Plenary and Committee Meetings in Cape Town when Parliament is sitting, but the rest of their work should be done in their assigned constituencies.  They are allocated a house in the Parliamentary Village in Acacia Park in Cape Town, which is where they stay when they are attending Parliament. Cllr Graham was quick to assure the community that MPs do not have to move to Cape Town, and that she will remain a resident of Graaff-Reinet, actively promoting the wellbeing of those in the area.  

“Personally, I am very sad to be leaving local government” said Cllr Graham.  “I have loved being a Councillor and I enjoy working intimately with my community. A real highlight was when I was acting Ward Councillor of Ward 5. It was extremely special getting to know the people of Kroonvale” she added.

Graham explained that Parliament will be much more removed from “grassroots” politics. “I am really excited at the prospect of being part of changing the path this country is moving along and being involved in the development of legislation and policies.”  She admits that it is going to be a huge challenge, and that she is not looking forward to the travelling involved, as she will need to be in Cape Town every week when Parliament is sitting.

Samantha and her family moved to the Karoo at the end of 2008, from Cape Town. They spent just over two years in Aberdeen, where Samantha soon became involved with the community, revitalising the DA in the town, and gaining particular support in Lotusville. She stood as the DA candidate in the local government elections in May 2011, narrowly losing to the ANC candidate.  She was subsequently appointed as a PR councillor for the DA. During the election campaign, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010, finishing treatment the following May, just ten days before the elections. Through all of this she remained positive and focussed on her campaign.

In 2012 the family moved to Graaff-Reinet, for Samantha to be nearer her main place of work, and more importantly, to be closer to her children’s school.

In the 2016 elections, she was the DA’s Mayoral Candidate, and really appreciated the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the Municipality, which she says gave her so much insight into the issues in each area. She added that she has thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the Executive Committee of the Municipality and Chairperson of the Corporate Services Portfolio Committee, which have allowed her greater insight into the workings of local government.

There have also been disappointments and frustrations along the way, one of the biggest being the amalgamation of the municipalities. “My submission opposing it was the basis of a full report commissioned by the Municipal Demarcation Board. The report advised strongly against amalgamation, but politics prevailed and it happened. Watching this Municipality fall into its current dismal financial state is heartbreaking” she said. Another major frustration is that the municipality is not delivering services to the local communities.

Samantha has continued to give her utmost to the community, and will be sorely missed. She hit the ground running even during her chemotherapy treatment, and worked from East London whilst receiving radiation in Frere earlier this year. Even from Cape Town, the community will probably still be receiving social media updates on local problems from this dynamic lady!  

Her closing wish for now is that she will be able to represent the people of the Eastern Cape to the best of her ability.

John Watermeyer celebrates 90

John Watermeyer was born in Graaff-Reinet on 15 February 1929, the second child in a family of four boys and one girl.

He grew up on his parent’s farm Watervlei in the district, and attended Union Prep and then High School. It was at school that he first met Jean Margaret Murray, three years his junior, who would later become his wife.

During this time, he played rugby for the Union High first team for three years, and in reports in the Advertiser, he was described as “clearing time and again with touch kicks,” and “being a safe and judicious fly half”, with a wonderful drop kick. John also boxed for the school.

His brother-in-law Walter Murray recounted a story of how on one occasion, Union High went to play Jansenville, in an open truck, which was the usual way of travelling in those days.  It rained all day and all night.  The boys stayed at private houses in Jansenville on Saturday, Sunday and Monday until the truck could cross the Melk River, and the joyful team of boys returned to school only on the Tuesday morning!

After school, John went to Grootfontein Agricultural College, where he passed with flying colours.  There he made wonderful friends, many of whom he is still in touch with, and who still get together to this day.

After Grootfontein John took what would now be called a gap year and branched out.  He sold coffee for Glenton and Mitchell, and being forward looking, bought plots of land on the outskirts of Johannesburg.  These he used later as security for loans when he bought ground.

Next he joined the Wool Growers Association, working mainly with sheep but also goats.  Once again he made lifelong friends during this chapter of his life.

In 1953 he met up with Jean Margaret again, and in 1955 they were married and he took over the family farm, De Keur near Hofmeyer.  This farm had two rivers running through it, and the river with the most constant water was on the wrong side for irrigating the lands.  Never one to be beaten by a challenge,  John did a marvelous job of building a siphon under the bigger river using petrol drums and concrete to get the water to the fertile lands.

However, this farm was not large enough for the whole Watermeyer family.  John wanted to expand and so he looked around for a larger unit.  After a lot of investigating he found a farm on the Kabusie River near Stutterheim.  After many years there, stock theft problems amongst other considerations caused John to sell the farm, and the family moved to Bloemhof.

The family’s move sounds a little like another Great Trek – from the far side of Stutterheim to Graaff-Reinet was a journey of over 400km. John had two tractors each with a big trailer as well as a big truck.  They moved everything – packed sky high – more than 400km at a tractor speed of only about 20km per hour!

The family stayed on Bloemhof for about a year and here John helped in the building of the dam.  John took over the laying of pipe lines through the wall.  This was no mean job as the ground had to be compacted to 96%, then the troughs dug open, pipes laid and concreted.  He did all this and the cement overflows compacted too.

During the year on Bloemhof John was not idle in looking for another farm in all the neighbouring districts.  Just then Doorndraai and Schoorsteenberg in the Aberdeen district came onto the market.  Everyone was thrilled as Aberdeen is known as such a good farming district with a wonderful community.

While farming on Doorndraai, John was very involved with the town and district, serving on many associations, such as Soil Conservation, Farmers’ Association, and the Land Credit Board. When Alex got married John and Jean moved to Fourwinds where they lived before moving to Belmont, and he started farming actively again.

However, once again, just as he was tasked with building up the farms he had to cope with a severe drought, similar to the present one.  And added to this adversity was the serious illness and very sad death of their son John Alex.  But John and Jean were used to hardships and they made a success of everything through sheer determination and hard work.

They expanded again and bought Tandjiesview, and in 2005 moved to Aberdeen town. Their very capable daughters Colleen and Helen, with husbands Dickie and Graham, have taken over the farms. Between them children, they have blessed John and Jean with six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

John has been a very active member of the community playing cricket and golf, and played a major role in the running of the Aberdeen Club for many years.  He also served as a chapel warden at St Mary’s and All Saints Anglican Church, where he still worships regularly.

He is still an active member of Probus in Graaff-Reinet, and thoroughly enjoys the monthly gatherings with his many friends.

To mark the occasion of his 90th birthday, Colleen and Helen organised a large party of family and friends at the Aberdeen Club on 23February for a birthday brunch. Many travelled from far to be part of the celebrations, a testimony to the important role John has played in so many lives. Instead of presents, Jean had asked for donations towards the work of the Graaff-Reinet Cancer Association, and they were thrilled to receive close to R3 000, much of it given anonymously.

Women’s World Day of Prayer


The combined service organised by the Aberdeen Dutch Reformed Church, Vrye Gereformeerde Kerk (VGK), and United Congregational Church of South Africa for the worldwide women’s day of prayer was very successful. Those who attended enjoyed the special fellowship, and felt that they had learned a lot.

The event opened with prayer and a welcome from organiser Estelle van Wyk.

She explained about the origins of this special day, which is celebrated in 190 countries around the world. This year Slovenia is the Writer country. They chose the theme: “Come- everything is ready” based on Luke 14:15-25, the parable Jesus told of the Feast that was organised and the guests that made excuses. The focus this year is to pray for Slovenia, but also all the people who are shunned by everybody: the disadvantaged, homeless, disabled, molested and molester, victor and victim, and the outcasts of the society.

Van Wyk also briefly gave a description of the country Slovenia, and of its culture, specifically about the women in the country.

Maria Jegels from the Congregational Church  then prayed for the needs of Slovenia. Madelyn Scheepers read from the scriptures and the spiritual dancers group, led by Maria Jegels, did a prayer dance.

Esme Finnis gave a sermon from the scripture and Rachel Jantjies prayed for the women of the world. Cathleen Kalaka from the United Mission Church performed a beautiful song, followed by a short talk for the school children, from Yvonne Frazenburg of theVictim Support Centre. Linda Williams (VGK) then prayed for the women in South Africa. The congregation sang Amazing Grace and Estelle van Wyk prayed for Aberdeen and district.

Esme Finnis ended the service by saying grace, and  prayed specific for women.

As well as women from the community, the grade 7 girls from Kamdebo Primary School attended the service, accompanied by Melanie Rheeder, a volunteer at the school. The organisers were very impressed by the girls’ behaviour and devotion, and a special moment for all was when the girls started spontaneously to sing as the congregation waited before the service started.  At the end, a child asked if she could pray for the parents, which was very touching.

The girls then left, each receiving an ice lolly, and the women were treated to tea and coffee in church.

From next year this event, scheduled worldwide for the first Friday in March, will continue to take place in the Dutch Reformed Church, but all churches in the community will be invited to be part of the organisation. Representatives from all the churches are asked to contact Margie du Plooy at the church office on 049 846 0027 to leave their details for next year’s planning.

Central v Aberdeen return match


A closely- fought contest was played out on the Collie Koeberg rugby fields last weekend, when Aberdeen arrived in Graaff- Reinet for the return game against Central.

The Aberdeen team arrived full of confidence and well prepared to avoid a repeat of the thrashing of the previous week’s game in Aberdeen, which the visiting Central side won 65 -34.

Central were under pressure from the visitors for most of the game. Aberdeen first tasted blood by scoring the first points against the home team: the visitors scored three tries, catching the Central defence on the wrong foot. Central players were rattled at first by the better Aberdeen team, but kept their composure and fought on.

It was indeed a very competitive game, as neither team was prepared to give up. Aberdeen also punished Central with successful penalty kicks to stay ahead on the score board.

Despite the pressure, the home team kept up attacking the advantage line, and showed belief in their structure systems to dominate with the forwards.

In the last five minutes, the hosts started to get a grip on the game and the score edged to a nail-biting 21-23. Attack after attack from the Central forwards in the last minute of the game saw the Aberdeen forwards pressured into playing the ball on the ground, and the hosts made the most of the penalty awarded, and won the game  24-23. The captain of Central, Juventis Jooste, was nominated as the man of the match.

After the game, both teams conveyed good wishes to their opponents for the forthcoming rugby league season. Central players and management were grateful to the local supporters who showed belief in the team’s capability until the final blow of the whistle.

Old Aberdonian shines in SAPS


A young lad who grew up in Aberdeen many years ago is now one of the top operational managers in the South African Police Service.

Sam Kilian was born in PE, but moved to Aberdeen with his sister and parents Stanley and Susie when he was a small boy. He started his schooling career at Aberdeen Primary School, and then moved to Volkskool in Graaff-Reinet, where he matriculated in 1980.

Many old Aberdonians will remember Sam’s parents. Stanley, who passed away in 2003, worked in the Aberdeen Hotel, and also wrote for the Aberdeen Pos newspaper.  Susie worked for 36 years at the Aberdeen Bottle Store for 36 years and was always ready with a cheerful smile for customers. In 2006 Susie moved to Benoni, to a purpose-built cottage at the home of Sam and his wife.

After school Sam joined the South African Railway Police in 1981, where he first trained at Esselen Park in Kempton Park for six months before being posted to what was then Jan Smuts International Airport. He rose to the rank of warrant officer with the Railways Police, working with the mobile units on trains. When the Railway Police amalgamated with the South African Police in October 1986, he continued to work on the East Rand, achieving the rank of Lieutenant in 1987.

Police service is in the Kilian family: Sam is one of five cousins who joined the service, following in the footsteps of his uncle Andries Horak, who retired as a Lieutenant General and who also comes from Aberdeen.

Sam has been in the service now for 38 years and has spent his career in the East Rand near Johannesburg. He was promoted to the rank of Brigadier on 1 December 2015 and is currently the Provincial Commander for Gauteng Police Emergency Services. He has several units under his command, including the Flying Squad, K9, Mounted, Accident, 10111, Negotiators, Water Wing and Divers. He is also a trained hostage negotiator.

In 2018 he was awarded the best operational manager for level 13 and 14 managers in Gauteng, and following on from this, he was also nominated for the National Excellence awards, at an event  which was held in Mpumalanga in January 2019.

Here he was awarded the first Runner up in the category Best Operational Manager level 13 to 14.

Garden Club visit to Oudedrift


Last Thursday the Aberdeen Garden and Social Club enjoyed a wonderful outing to a local farm – truly back to the roots of the original Garden Club.

Oudedrift, about half way between Aberdeen and Graaff-Reinet, is in a most beautiful setting, and the fact that such a lush garden could be seen in the middle of the Karoo during such a devastating drought is testimony to the love and care shown to the property.

Harold and Catherine Steven-Jennings bought the farm 34 years ago.  It had been used as a cattle breeding farm, and thus was not set up in a form usable for them as sheep farmers, entailing a great deal of conversion work.

 Members were fascinated by Harold’s account of the history of the farm, and how it is worked. He grazes his stock using the ‘wagon wheel’ format – a central hub of a watering point surrounded by wedge-shaped paddocks which all lead to the water, and the stock is moved from paddock to paddock around the ‘wheel’.  This ensures that the ground and fodder has time to regenerate after it has been grazed, and the animals break up the surface and manure the ground to assist in germination of new shoots.  When good rain falls, the stock moves more quickly, as the fodder grows fast, but in times of drought movement around the paddocks slows.  Research shows that herds of wild animals – those who have not been interfered with by humans – actually graze in this manner intuitively.  Because of his desire to work as holistically as possible, Harold prefers not to destroy predators on his farm, other than the occasional rogue.  He brings his stock in to shelter at night for protection, and is currently investigating the possibility of bringing in a Maluti mountain dog to assist him to look after his sheep.

Catherine’s well-presented talk showed her passion for conserving and renewing the soil in as natural a manner as possible.  Years ago she discovered books by Japanese farmer Masanoba Fukuoka called ‘The One Straw Revolution’ and ‘The Road Back to Nature’ and his ideas form a basis for her methods of growing both her vegetables and her flowers.  The results are certainly magnificent.  She works as organically as possible without using chemical fertilisers and only minimal pesticides if absolutely necessary.  Her main pesticide is a mixture of khakibos and garlic, which deals with most pests.  Her methods of making and using compost were explained and demonstrated to the guests.  The group was fascinated to hear that at one time she had a problem with kudu jumping into the vegetable garden and helping themselves, and has solved the problem using strings of flashing Christmas lights on the surrounding rose-covered fence.

The farmhouse rests comfortably under a canopy of huge white ash and oak trees, which were already established when they moved to the farm, and which have grown massive and stately.  Even in this time of drought the garden is full of colour and growth, and the garden is truly a place of peace and tranquillity.  Many members of the group particularly remarked on this and said they didn’t want to leave!  This was truly a ‘garden club’ meeting where we could relax under the trees, learn about a different way of life which places real importance on going back to nature, whilst enjoying a sumptuous tea provided by members.

The next meeting, on 14 March, will be held at the home of Tony ad Judith Dardis, at 7 Ziervogel  Street in Aberdeen. The subject is the revitalisation of Aberdeen and recycling.

 Central rugby v Aberdeen



Graaff-Reinet’s Central Rugby Club had a remarkable opening game against Aberdeen last weekend  to open the rugby season.

The match took place at the Aberdeen sports fields on Saturday, and Central beat the home team with a convincing 65-34 win.

The thorough preparation of Central’s new coaching team under the leadership of Aswell Adams bore fruit as Central were dominant in all areas of the game.

Central scored an impressive nine tries with ease, and fly half Mandy Sauls was succesful in all his kicking efforts.

Ben Koeberg, the scrum half for Central, scored three tries and was crowned the Player of the Game.

Hento Davids, President of Central Sport Club, is very proud of how the Central players performed, giving 100% effort, and believes that the Aberdeen players still in shock after the trouncing they received!

Central will play Aberdeen again in a return fixture this coming weekend at the Kolie Koeberg (?sp)stadium.

Anyone interested in joining the growing Central club is welcome to come along to join the practice sessions, which are held every day Monday to Thursday at 18.00 on the grounds of Kolie Koeberg.

Davids hopes that the team’s supporters will come out in their numbers on 2 March to watch the return game against Aberdeen, and would love to see a strong contingent of supporters with the visiting team.

Central are still looking for sponsors from businesses to get involved in what promises to be a busy season that will produce some outstanding rugby.

Botter Ossies walking again

Last March, three friends who walked short distances together regularly for exercise took on the challenge of a 21km walk to raise money for charity. Close to R15 000 was raised for Aberdeen charities ranging from soup kitchens, churches, animal welfare and the elderly.

After a year, the Botter Ossies are hitting the road again to raise funds for Aberdeen. The ladies are asking their friends to sponsor their efforts as an encouragement, and each sponsor can choose where their money will go. A local organisation or project will benefit when someone specifically donates towards that cause.

The original Botter Ossies are Hannelie van der Westhuisen, who runs the Kamdebo Padstal, Umelda van Rensburg from Superstore and the Aberdeen detective office, and Debbie Barnardt, formerly of Aalwynhof and the NGK office and now teaching at Kamdeboo Primary.

This year, on 17 March, they will attempt to walk 25km to Grootvlakte farm, and the three stalwarts from last year have been joined by Lizemari Jordaan, a bookkeeper at Gerber Botha and Gowar.

Sponsorships can be per kilometre, or a once-off amount as a donation, and can be pledged with any one of the ladies. Forms are also available at the Padstal, Superstore, and Vroutjie se Koutjie.

Umelda and Hannelie in particular have been training hard this year, covering a distance of about 3km every morning, walking and jogging. Lizamari is walking on the farm for her training, and Debbie’s time in the classroom running around after 43 grade 3 children is certainly keeping her fit!