Only God’s grace protecting Grace

PHIRI CAWE

While trees are valued for their shade and the role they place in preventing soil erosion, a certain bluegum tree – believed to be as old as Site B itself – poses a serious threat to a Khayelitsha granny.

Seventy-year-old Grace Mbak- aza said she is lucky to be alive after a big tree crashed through the roof of her house twice in two years.

Ms Mbakaza, is bedridden and lives alone in her Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) house which suffered severe damages after a giant gum tree fell on top of it – twice.

She believes it is by God’s grace alone that she still has a house.

Showing Vukani the holes in the roof of her house, Ms Mbakaza asked for help to get rid of the tree.

She said she was worried because the roots were now starting to damage the house as well. “I could not even extend my house. I tried but everyone that I hire to extend my house tells me about this tree.

“But what disheartened me is that the tree does not belong to me. This is my neighbour’s tree. But he is nowhere to be found,” she explained.

She said she had previously approached him on numerous occasions, but there has been no progress.

When she had still been able to walk, she said, she had also gone to the local municipal offices in Khayelitsha as well as ward councillor Monde Mabandla, but there had been no positive outcome.

“I am sitting in this bed fearing that anything could happen to me. I have twice survived the wrath of the tree. Look at the two holes on the roof. They have been caused by the falling branches because the tree is very old. I guess it is divine intervention that still saves me.

“When I was walking and had strength, I went everywhere for help,” she said.

Her granddaughter Nandipha Mlungu said any old person living all alone would have fears especially after the two incidents.

“She narrowly escaped death, so you can imagine what she went through. She would always be worried at anytime of the day.

“Residents tried to help us but I think they at some point chickened out.

“We called the media because we need help. She cannot extend, and we all know that these RDP houses are too delicate. One day it will fall on her. The roots are starting to damage the house,” she said.

She said their pleas fell on deaf ears. She said they have tried to get hold of the neighbour but it is not known where he is.

Mr Mabandla, the councillor for Ward 91, said he was aware of Ms Mbakaza’s complaints. He said he had done his part by completing a C3 form notification.

“She was supposed to come back to me about the results (but did not). I thought it was long done with.

“I even asked one ward committee member to work with her. Now that you tell me, I will have to do a follow up,” he said.

When asked what the City’s policy is when it comes to vegetation which poses a threat to people’s homes, Belinda Walker, the City’s mayoral committee member for community services and special projects, said: “The City’s Tree Management Policy is applicable to trees that grow on City-owned land throughout the metropolitan area. This includes City-owned land that is leased to individuals or groups. This policy excludes the management of trees that grow on private land, unless it impacts on public places and public open spaces.

“The City’s Parks Department will investigate this incident to provide guidance to the homeowner (on whose property the tree is located) and see how best they can offer assistance to prevent more branches from falling onto Mam’* Grace Mbakaza’s house.”