‘Protected’ tree falls on local family’s shed

2018-01-03 13:30
Ishwarall Budhu (68) looks at the damage done after part of a towering tree fell and smashed a storage shed on the property on New Year’s eve.

Ishwarall Budhu (68) looks at the damage done after part of a towering tree fell and smashed a storage shed on the property on New Year’s eve. (Kerushun Pillay)

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A Northdale family’s worst fears came true on New Year’s eve, when part of an old tree, that had been rotting for years, fell and smashed a storage shed.

The family, who were celebrating the New Year and a six-year-old relative’s birthday, said they have been trying “for years” to get the Msunduzi Municipality to remove the rotting tree, as they were unable to tamper with it because it is protected by the City.

Title deeds to the property, which were shown to The Witness, forbid its occupants from cutting, breaking or damaging the towering Cork Oak Tree “without prior consent of the City council of the City of Pietermaritzburg”.

The family, who have owned the house for nearly 40 years, told The Witness that the tree has experienced extensive rot over the years, and numerous calls to the municipality to attend to the problem went unanswered.

The tree completely smashed the storage space behind the property, destroying a motorcycle, a bicycle, some cooking equipment and some stored away memorabilia. It also smashed part of their neighbours’ wall.

Pensioner Ishwarall Budhu (68), who lives at the house with his wife Saras (67), their daughter and two grandchildren, said the incident happened at about 7 pm.

“We were cooking in this area the entire day, and moved to the front yard to eat. Suddenly we heard a loud bang and everyone went running to that side of the house. Neighbours came from all over to see what happened,” Budhu said.

“Thank God none of us was hurt. We were going to stand and eat under the tree but it got dark so we said let’s move to the other side.”

Budhu said the family were looking forward to the new year, when on Tuesday they were supposed to have celebrated his and Saras’ 45th anniversary.

“Instead we’re now scared that the rest of the tree will fall. And if it does it will either fall on our house or the neighbour’s house and then we’re finished.

“I feel traumatised, I just feel like crying,” he said.

Budhu said disaster management officers from the City were on the scene on Monday to assess the incident.

He said they have tried every year to get the City to assess the tree and get it removed, to no avail.

“People only ever come and look at it, then nothing happens. We’ve been worried for years that it was going to fall. I think only when it falls and someone is killed, then they’ll worry.”

The municipality on Tuesday said that clearing the tree was not its responsibility as the tree is situated on private property.

As to why the tree was mentioned on the property title deeds remains a mystery. City spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha did not respond to that question.

Ward 31 councillor Rooksana Ahmed said the City should have investigated the matter fully before making a comment.

“We still don’t know why it appeared in the title deeds, but my main concern as a councillor is that the tree must get removed before more damage is done and someone is injured.”

• If any readers are able to shed light on the tree or the clause in the title deed protecting it, please e-mail
kerushun.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    msunduzi municipality  |  pietermaritzburg

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