UKZN fells jacaranda damaged during rape protest

2018-06-06 16:00
The stump of the large jacaranda tree that was chopped down on the lawns of UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

The stump of the large jacaranda tree that was chopped down on the lawns of UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus. (Ian Carbutt)

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The much-loved rare white jacaranda at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus is not damaged after all, and will live to flower again.

But, another common mauve jacaranda close by has had to be chopped down after it was damaged during a recent student protest.

Last month The Witness reported that students protesting over UKZN’s perceived “lack of action” regarding the alleged off-campus rape of a student had set alight stacks of hay that were beneath the tree.

“An assessment was conducted by a horticulturist. There was extensive damage to the upper branches and trunk of the tree and to 70% of the root system,” said UKZN acting spokesperson Normah Zondo.

“The decision to remove the jacaranda tree was not taken lightly ... The damage to the tree was irreversible and posed a risk to campus users,” she said.

The towering jacaranda tree has taken on a sort of cult status in Pietermaritzburg. Horticulturist at UKZN’s School of Life Sciences Alison Young said as jacarandas are alien to South Africa, the planting of new trees is illegal.

But those that are already planted do not need to be chopped down.

“People love them because of their beautiful colour and they make nice pictures ... The ones on campus are quite old,” she said.

The famous white jacaranda tree stands intact in front of the felled tree. 

The jacaranda tree is well-loved in Pietermaritzburg, with some having been planted 100 years ago. There are even urban legends surrounding them, some linked to UKZN students.

Legend has it that having a flower from the tree fall directly on someone sitting beneath while studying means they will pass their exams.

Meanwhile, UKZN confirmed that the rape incident investigation was with the university proctor and a disciplinary hearing was under way.

The accused student has been suspended from the university, pending the outcome of the hearing, UKZN said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn

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