Six landscaping company workers arrested for illegally 'pruning' acacias worth R600 000 in Joburg

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Branches of an acacia tree at the Kruger National Park.
Branches of an acacia tree at the Kruger National Park.
Nicolas Deloche /Godong/Universal Images Group via
  • Six people have been arrested for allegedly illegally pruning acacias in Fourways. 
  • The trees, aged between 20 and 30 years, are worth R600 000.  
  • The City of Joburg is worried about the declining number of trees in the municipality. 

Six employees from a private landscaping company have landed in hot water after allegedly being caught illegally pruning acacias in Fourways.  

According to the Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, senior horticulturist Joseph Ndou was conducting his morning site visits along William Nicol in Fourways when he came across a team of employees from a leading landscaping company, illegally pruning trees worth R600 000.

The acacias are believed to be between 20 and 30 years old.  

City Parks spokesperson Jenny Moodley said the Douglasdale police had arrested six people. They have been charged with malicious damage to public infrastructure. 

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She said: "The City has a standard fine for illegally pruning trees. In this case. An assessment will have to be done on the tree to see how much they will be fined. The cost will be determined by how much damage they have inflicted on the tree. It can go up to a maximum of R600 000."

Gauteng police have not yet responded to a request for comment.

Moodley said that, over the next few months, the City would have to give the acacias extra attention to ensure they survived.

According to the City, the workers were pruning the acacias on the instruction of a shopping centre that wanted to increase the visibility of their advertising signage.  

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"For now, we are going after the landscaping company. They know the by-laws. They should have contacted the City to ask for permission or assistance."

Moodley said the City took a serious stance against illegal tree pruning and felling. 

"It takes a lot of time to get the trees that they pruned to survive. The tree loss in new plants is so much higher. If we want to replace the six that were damaged, we have to plant twice that number. The tree loss is a reality because of cars driving over them, natural diseases and weather conditions."  

Bryne Maduka, the managing director of Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, agreed with Moodley that the tree population in the city was in trouble, saying:

The City of Joburg’s manmade forest is at risk. Species such as the Jacaranda are reaching their full life expectancy. The challenges are further compounded by climate change, giving rise to erratic weather resulting in trees being uprooted and the arrival of the diseases such as, the Polyphagus Shothole Borer infestation, which is accelerating the demise of trees mostly in historically lush green suburbs.

He said increasing urbanisation also meant that the city could not plant as many trees as they wanted. 

"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," he said.

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