EFF picket over ’poisoned’ tree

The silence of the green leafy suburb of Tokai was broken on Thursday June 10 as 100 Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) supporters gathered in protest allegations of racism.

The previous evening the Tokai community social media pages were buzzing with comments about the picket. The Tokai Neighbourhood Crime Watch asked residents to stay away and allow law enforcement agencies to do their jobs.

Picketers gathered on the corner of Fyfe and Main roads at the home of Arthur McKey, 75, who alleges that his fruit trees have been poisoned because “black kids” picked the fruit that fell from his 80-year-old guava tree.

“I was told I was attracting the wrong kind of people to our upscale suburb…

“I asked what he meant by the wrong kind of people,” he said of a neighbour, whom he would not name.

Mr McKey said he had invited the mayor and representatives of different political parties to visit his property and help him handle the issue but only the EFF responded.

Wearing T-shirts handed out at the start of the picket emblazoned with “Stop Racism in Tokai” they marched past Tokai Library singing, chanting slogans and waving banners under the watchful eye of Kirstenhof police, metro police and the public order policing (POP).

EFF provincial chairperson Nosipho Makamba-Bogya handed over a memorandum to Protea Sub-council representative Desiree Mentor.

Ms Makamba-Bogya said they had decided to picket because “the City of Cape Town did nothing about this incident, but when a tree in the area was seen dying it launched an investigation suspecting the tree was poisoned and it made headlines in a local newspaper”.

Mr McKey was referring to an investigation by the City into a poisoned yellowwood tree in Oakridge, Meadowridge.

In response to these claims, the City’s Mayco member for community services and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien, said vandalism of trees on City property was a violation of City regulations and that there had been a number of incidents of tree poisoning on City property in areas such as Durbanville, Meadowridge and Kenilworth.

“The by-law deals specifically with trees in public places, not private property. For matters related to private property, residents can report incidents to the local SAPS.”

Kirstenhof police spokesperson Sergeant Deidre Solomon said two cases had been registered in March by Mr McKey – one for malicious damage to property and intimidation against the neighbour who took down the posters he had up on his wall warning people about the tree.

The second case was related to the alleged theft of the posters he had erected on his wall warning that fruit might be poisoned. Sergeant Solomon said there was no case specifically related to the alleged poisoning of the tree. However, she said, both cases had been withdrawn after having been discussed with the senior prosecutor of Wynberg.

Ward 71 councillor Penny East said she was deeply saddened by what she believed was a neighbourly dispute which had escalated to a politically-driven protest. “I have never seen any proof of poisoning of any tree, so it’s all hearsay. And there has been no official complaint to the City,” said Ms East.

Read more about this in the Bulletin on Thursday June 17.

Arthur McKey with his 80-year-old guava tree.
Arthur McKey speaking to media about his fruit tree.
A group of women arriving for the picket.
Tokai resident Arthur McKey takes pictures of the picketers.
Arthur McKey alleges that his fruit trees have been poisoned because “black kids” pick the fruit that falls from his 80-year-old guava tree.
Some of the posters and articles in Arthur McKey’s garden.
Picketers marched past Tokai Library singing, chanting slogans and waving banners under the watchful eye of Kirstenhof police, metro police and the public order policing (POP).
Some of the 100 picketers who were allowed to protest in Tokai.
Protesters make their views heard.
Picketers were given T-shirts with “Stop Racism in Tokai” emblazoned on them.
Picketers holding printed messages.
EFF provincial chairperson Nosipho Makamba-Bogya handed over a memorandum to Protea Sub-council representative Desiree Mentor.