Residents’ requests to fix street lights ends in felling of 40-year-old trees

2012-12-04 00:00

ASK the Msunduzi Municipality to fix your street lights and you could end up with a “chainsaw massacre” on your hands.

Al Diesel and Mary Kleinenberg of Umdoni Place are still getting over the shock, after their complaints about broken street lights cost the lives of five Pride of India trees, commonly known in that country as “jarul”.

It all started when the street lights went out more than eight weeks ago. The civic-minded residents phoned the municipality to complain that the situation posed a serious security problem as it was extremely dark at night. Time passed and the lights remained unfixed.

Diesel phoned again on a recent Friday and asked who was in charge, and was told to phone Havelock Road, which she did. The next day when she got home from the Saturday market she received the shock of her life. There in the middle of Umdoni Place was a truck and a chainsaw team cutting down the pavement trees.

“Pride of India trees, which bloom beautifully every year and were planted by Alice Varty when this cul-de-sac was developed almost 40 years ago, lay on the ground,” said Kleinenberg.

She added that five of the 25 trees in the street had already been chopped.

Diesel asked the men to stop immediately. She queried who had ordered the trees to be chopped down, as the residents had certainly not been consulted. The workers gave her the name and telephone number of their boss. He told Diesel he was a contractor who “was phoned by the municipality and told that the residents were complaining about the street lights not working, so he should come and chop all the trees down”.

The men cleared up the mess and left.

The residents are still marvelling at the close shave. “If we had not come home when we did, all the trees might have vanished while we were out, leaving a desert,” Kleinenberg said.

She added: “And this is the municipality which is encouraging residents of suburbs to beautify their surroundings, and we have seen twice in The Witness that there is a competition to award those who have made the most beautiful gardens on the side-walks.”

By yesterday, more than three weeks after what Diesel and Kleinenberg have come to describe as “the great chainsaw massacre” — the street lights had still not been fixed.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma said it was common practice to prune (but not chop down) trees when they interfere with street lights or power lines. “An instruction to prune was clearly misinterpreted for chop. I commend Al and Mary for having acted as responsible citizens by immediately intervening to prevent further chopping. The matter is being investigated internally to prevent the same occurrence in future,” said Zuma.

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