Landscaping company in hot water for 'severely pruning' six Joburg trees worth R600K

24 September 2021 - 18:16
What's left of an acacia tree pruned to within an inch of its life in Fourways, Johannesburg.
What's left of an acacia tree pruned to within an inch of its life in Fourways, Johannesburg.
Image: Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Landscapers working for a big landscaping group have landed themselves in hot water after accepting a job to cut the branches of six acacia trees blocking billboards at a shopping centre.

The trees are around 30 years old and are valued at R600,000 according to the Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo.

The incident also happened during Arbour Month, a month when the country aims to create awareness of trees threatened by extinction. It is usually celebrated by planting trees.

On Wednesday Mmankwe Sebatjane, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo’s senior arboculturist, and Joseph Ndou, the regional manager, were in Fourways, north of Johannesburg, conducting site visits.

Driving along William Nichol road they encountered a team of employees from the landscaping company allegedly illegally pruning trees.

A team from Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo came upon landscapers illegally pruning valuable trees on William Nicol in Fourways.
A team from Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo came upon landscapers illegally pruning valuable trees on William Nicol in Fourways.
Image: Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

According to a statement by Bryne Maduka, the MD of Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, the acacias were “severely pruned”.

“Employees of the company say they were acting on instruction by their superiors, who were commissioned by the adjacent shopping centre to increase the visibility of advertising signage along this busy main road.”

Ndou called the police who, with members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department, detained both the employees and their supervisors. Their vehicles and tools were also confiscated.

“A case of malicious damage to public infrastructure has been opened.

“Now more than ever, we need to hasten our resolve to plant trees and become more informed on why every tree in our city matters.”

Police arrested employees of a landscape company who illegally pruned trees blocking advertising billboards.
Police arrested employees of a landscape company who illegally pruned trees blocking advertising billboards.
Image: Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

According to Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, the city's man-made forest is at risk.

“Species such as the jacaranda are reaching their full life expectancy. The challenges are further compounded by erratic weather patterns resulting in trees being uprooted; increasing urbanisation and densification giving rise to space constraints for new trees; the arrival of the diseases brought on by climate change such as, the Polyphagus Shothole Borer infestation, that is accelerating the demise of trees mostly in historically lush green suburbs and financial constraints that are impeding the ability to speedily plant new trees for the future.”

Maduka pleaded with residents and businesses to become more involved in protecting and planting trees. 

This is not the first incident of its kind.

In October 2019, beer brand Amstel came under fire for cutting trees in the city centre's Maboneng precinct to make way for a billboard.

Amstel then ordered the immediate removal of the billboard, committing to replant trees.

“Amstel has committed to greening Johannesburg through a partnership with Food and Trees, an organisation which focuses on urban greening and various environmental undertakings. Through this partnership, Amstel will plant 50 trees in Johannesburg in the next two weeks,” the company said at the time.

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