Noetzie: Protesters cut through a fence barring access to the beach here during a march organised by the Guardians of the Garden Route (GoG) and Knysna subsistence fishermen yesterday.
The fence was erected in May by Pezula Private Estate, which owns several castles on the Noetzie beach, the neighbouring Sparrebosch golf course and the Pezula hotel/spa and luxury residential resort. Initially Pezula said access to the municipal-owned steps leading to the beach would be closed for safety reasons while the adjacent castle was renovated, but it recently stated that its road leading to the steps would “remain closed to the public indefinitely”.
The Heritage Weekend protest began in the Noetzie car park, where the chairman of the Knysna Subsistence Fishermen Committee, Donald Kemoetie, told cheering protesters: “We were here first. Long before Sparrebosch or Pezula. It is in our culture to catch and eat fish, to take our children and show them how to collect bait and put a hook on a line, and where the best fishing places are.”
Placard-carrying marchers took the only route available to the coast – a steep concrete road – and walked along the beach, past a handful of houses and castles, and back up the flight of 116 stone and concrete steps until they reached the newly erected fence.
Fifth-generation Noetzie homeowner, Julie Gosling, used wire cutters to cut through 20 strands of thick wire and shade cloth. “I felt proud,” she said afterwards.
Pezula staffer Russel Banks, flanked by security guards, took photographs of protesters as they surged through. The crowd then continued up the concrete road on Pezula’s property towards the public car park. Pezula security guards unlocked the controversial high steel gate with rolls of razor wire on the top to let people through.
Protesters then trudged up the steep provincial road to the entrance of Pezula’s Noetzie offices. GoG member Debbie Henley climbed to the top of a remote-controlled gate to display her poster: “Access to land for need not greed”.
This was GoG’s third annual march, and it reflected the range of groups that make up the alliance. Concerned individuals and environmental groups like the Noetzie Conservancy, Wilderness and Lakes Environmental Action Forum and the Rastafarian House of Judah were present, along with land-rights forums such as the Southern Cape Land Committee, Southern Cape and Karoo Restitution Forum and Forestry Indaba. However, the majority of protesters were adults and children from Hornlee supporting the subsistence fishermen. The Knysna Community Forum was the only political party with a visible presence. Kemoetie is also a town councillor.