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Friday, 9 June 2017

Treeson outside the Library

By Dr Rosemary Kuhn

How the mighty are falling…no not Pravin or Jonas, but the mighty jacarandas near the Pietermaritzburg main library – one by one, examples of ‘garden capture’ by forces of radical transformation who are doing things in the interests of efficiency and growth.
First it was the tree next to the stair case leading up to Chemistry which made way for economic development in the name of an addition to the Chemistry building; no others will be cut down, us anxious lot were told. Horrors. Another stab at radical transformation – the redesign of the adjacent building began, and down came the huge beautiful jacaranda. When I marched outside ready to tie myself to the trunk, a hard hat stopped me in my tracks, treeting me with great suspicion. Hard hat looked taken aback when I asked why the tree was being axed. “We were given orders to cut it down” – shriek! A yes person, no soul. “To make way for pipes.” Pipes? I squeaked in disbelief, pipes!  That massive beauty – for pipes! The new-look building will have a sun patio and yes there will be plenty of sun, not a leaf left for shade.
The last straw. One of two jacaranda giants at opposite ends of the lawn in front of the Clock Tower building, stalwarts of nature, nurture, our campus and library life, lost the battle to survive, such cruel treetment. I had been on leave, and the deed was already underway before I could organise a protest march or ‘#trees must tower’ campaign.  The whole ‘look’ of the main campus is now lopsided like the sliding rand. An equally outraged colleague devoted an entire morning to trying to get to the bottom of this act of treeson and after hours of being pushed from pillar to post, we are none the wiser about who signed the job card. The hard hat response was: ‘Following orders, dunno who sanctioned it, phone ….’. A little later: ‘Its rotten’. Later ‘It might fall on someone’. It might fall on someone?? Not sure if this is fake news or the truth, or an unsubstantiated intelligence report but upon inspection it looks to be one of the healthiest trees I have ever seen. Could this mean the unthinkable – that all trees on campus might be under threat because ‘one might fall on someone’? One thing is for sure, if this tree cutting continues, the physical campus is under threat of having its status downgraded to that of ‘garden refuse’. Oh woe, the tree, tis gone.

Picture from 1975 courtesy of the UKZN Pmb archives showing the jacaranda in the background

 The once magnificent jacaranda 2017


  1. What a beautiful picture of the building.The tower looks like a representation of a human head,eyes,nose and mouth in the middle.

  2. Strange how everything all of a sudden is 'rooted' in radical transformation.
    Love the metaphors.
    We need to start a 'Adopt a Tree' campaign or they will soon become Histree...lol

  3. Strange how everything appears to be 'rooted' in radical transformation.
    Great metaphor!

  4. it is clear that some people do not value nature, it was a good fight for nature by Rose.