Idea bears fruit

2019-12-05 06:01
Tokai resident Arthur McKey with some of the Confederate Rose trees that he has grown from scratch. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

Tokai resident Arthur McKey with some of the Confederate Rose trees that he has grown from scratch. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

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They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but 100 residents living in Ilitha Park, will soon have the opportunity to grow a tree for money – R300, to be exact.

Tokai resident Arthur McKey is the man behind this initiative dubbed The People Power Flower. Within the next few years, he intends to raise trees from seed and help plant 1 000 deciduous trees (Confederate Rose – Hibiscus Mutabilis) in Khayelitsha. But for now he is focussed on getting the first 100 into the ground and he has decided that Ilitha Park is a good place to start.

McKey describes Ilitha Park as a neat suburb filled with brick houses and small gardens.

For the first 100 trees only, the 74-year-old is offering to pay R300 to each household that has planted one of his trees a year after the fact – on condition that it is still thriving.

By the end of December, he plans to distribute pamphlets – inviting residents to take him up on his offer – among the homes located on the 105 streets of Ilitha Park.

McKey will not only supply the trees, he also plans to plant them, with the help of his gardener.

This idea first took root about six years ago when a group of friends invited him to join them for a beer, braaied chicken and Deep House music at The Park.

McKey says he must have looked worried when they told him The Park was located at Site B in Khayelitsha.

“They asked me if I was scared and I replied, ‘What? Me? Scared?’ I was lying through my teeth.”

He ended up having a blast. “The people, the Deep House music and the braaied chicken were magnificent. So was the ice-cold beer! Cheap too. A great vibe, indeed,” he says.

The only thing missing was the greenery that you would expect to find at a place called The Park. “There wasn’t a single blade of grass or a tree in sight.”

That night, while lying in bed at his home in Tokai, the seed to transform Khayelitsha into a tree-lined town was planted.

After lengthy research, McKey settled on the Confederate Rose as being the right tree for the area. In addition to its beautiful pink flowers, it is also low-maintenance, requires little water and can grow in Khayelitsha’s sandy soil, with the help of a handful of bone meal.

It also has a thin trunk, so there is no fear of it becoming a hiding place for thugs.

He immediately set about planting his first crop of seedlings in his small garden, but then disaster struck. He slipped on wet paving and broke his hip. A few years and a hip replacement operation later, McKey is now ready to take on the challenge again.

“My garden is rapidly becoming overcrowded – I urgently need to plant these first 100 trees,” he says.

The avid gardener is the first to admit that his dream of transforming Khayelitsha into a tree-lined suburb is, well, to put it politely, far-fetched. But those who know him would be quick to tell you that if anyone can do it, McKey can.

The former owner of a thriving estate agency in Tokai has built a reputation for being a self-starter and a champion of anti-racism. He has been challenging the status quo since 1977 when he first published and distributed 15 000 copies of his People Power Manifesto – speaking out against the then ruling National Party – in the southern suburbs.

He claims to be the first person to have coined the phrase and concept of “People Power” to unseat an unpopular government.

Through the People Power Flower initiative, he hopes to plant another seed which he would like to see grow.

McKey aims to inspire the City of Cape Town and like-minded individuals to undertake an initial planting of at least 20 000 different varieties of fruit trees on publicly owned land throughout Khayelitsha to assist in ensuring that no child walking home from school goes hungry.

“I have a huge 80-year-old guava tree growing on the edge of my property. School kids who pass by on their way home to Westlake township help themselves to the fruit, and why not? I encourage them. Imagine if children who live in Khayelitsha could do the same,” he says.

McKey believes it can be done, however, he realises the logistics involved are way too big for one person to handle. He challenges others to adopt this idea and to run with it.

“Just a few weeks ago, we had Springbok captain Siya Kolisi telling us how he used to walk home from school, wondering where his next meal was coming from. Who knows what difference a single fruit-bearing tree could make to the life of a child?”

They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but 100 residents living in Ilitha Park, a middle-class suburb in Khayelitsha, will soon have the opportunity to grow a tree for money – R300, to be exact.

Tokai resident Arthur McKey is the man behind this initiative dubbed The People Power Flower. Within the next few years, he intends to raise trees from seed and help plant 1 000 deciduous trees (Confederate Rose – Hibiscus Mutabilis) in Khayelitsha. But for now he is focussed on getting the first 100 into the ground and he has decided that Ilitha Park, a neat suburb filled with brick houses and small gardens, is a good place to start.

For the first 100 trees only, the 74-year-old is offering to pay R300 to each household that has planted one of his trees a year after the fact – on condition that it is still thriving.

By the end of December, he plans to distribute pamphlets – inviting residents to take him up on his offer – among the homes located on the 105 streets of Ilitha Park.

McKey will not only supply the trees, he also plans to plant them, with the help of his gardener.

This idea first took root about six years ago when a group of friends invited him to join them for a beer, braaied chicken and Deep House music at The Park.

McKey says he must have looked worried when they told him The Park was located at Site B in Khayelitsha.

“They asked me if I was scared and I replied, ‘What? Me? Scared?’ I was lying through my teeth.”

He ended up having a blast. “The people, the Deep House music and the braaied chicken were magnificent. So was the ice-cold beer! Cheap too. A great vibe, indeed,” he says.

The only thing missing was the greenery that you would expect to find at a place called The Park. “There wasn’t a single blade of grass or a tree in sight.”

That night, while lying in bed at his home in Tokai, the seed to transform Khayelitsha into a tree-lined town was planted.

After lengthy research, McKey settled on the Confederate Rose as being the right tree for the area. In addition to its beautiful pink flowers, it is also low-maintenance, requires little water and can grow in Khayelitsha’s sandy soil, with the help of a handful of bone meal.

It also has a thin trunk, so there is no fear of it becoming a hiding place for thugs.

He immediately set about planting his first crop of seedlings in his small garden, but then disaster struck. He slipped on wet paving and broke his hip. A few years and a hip replacement operation later, McKey is now ready to take on the challenge again.

“My garden is rapidly becoming overcrowded – I urgently need to plant these first 100 trees,” he says.

The avid gardener is the first to admit that his dream of transforming Khayelitsha into a tree-lined suburb is, well, to put it politely, far-fetched. But those who know him would be quick to tell you that if anyone can do it, McKey can.

The former owner of a thriving estate agency in Tokai has built a reputation for being a self-starter and a champion of anti-racism. He has been challenging the status quo since 1977 when he first published and distributed 15 000 copies of his People Power Manifesto – speaking out against the then ruling National Party – in the southern suburbs.

He claims to be the first person to have coined the phrase and concept of “People Power” to unseat an unpopular government.

Through the People Power Flower initiative, he hopes to plant another seed which he would like to see grow.

McKey aims to inspire the City of Cape Town and like-minded individuals to undertake an initial planting of at least 20 000 different varieties of fruit trees on publicly owned land throughout Khayelitsha to assist in ensuring that no child walking home from school goes hungry.

“I have a huge 80-year-old guava tree growing on the edge of my property. School kids who pass by on their way home to Westlake township help themselves to the fruit, and why not? I encourage them. Imagine if children who live in Khayelitsha could do the same,” he says.

McKey believes it can be done, however, he realises the logistics involved are way too big for one person to handle. He challenges others to adopt this idea and to run with it.

“Just a few weeks ago, we had Springbok captain Siya Kolisi telling us how he used to walk home from school, wondering where his next meal was coming from. Who knows what difference a single fruit-bearing tree could make to the life of a child?”

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