A stand of coral trees, almost 100 years old, felled by Eskom last week in Groot Marico Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - Residents of the historic hamlet of Groot Marico, immortalised by author Herman Charles Bosman, are readying for a “big fight” against Eskom after one of its contractors hacked rows of trees lining the streets of the sleepy North West town.

Last week, a “chainsaw gang”, contracted by Eskom, destroyed the character of the sleepy town by cutting down the trees – some almost century old – running alongside electricity lines, said locals.

Several coral trees, almost a century old and “about to go into spectacular flowering, were also wantonly cut down”, bemoaned Santa van Bart, of the Groot Marico Visitors Information Centre. “These were well- known landmarks in town and also part of our cultural heritage.”

A row of wild olive trees, which had been “sensitively trimmed and shaped by committed members of our community, were mutilated” along with monkey thorn, river bushillow, wild bear and indigenous bauhinia trees, she said.

Residents were now mourning these familiar landmarks.

“Groot Marico is a small town but we sometimes have to fight big fights,” said Van Bart. “In town, we have people who deeply care for the environment and respect nature. There is a project in the township extension to plant trees in the new extension.

“Many years ago we also planted trees in the streets of the town, and it has become a haven and a landmark in town. That was until Eskom’s team of workers started amputating our lovely trees, not even trying to be sensitive to allow and compensate for both electric wires and the trees,” she said.

“The person contracted by Eskom admitted to having no dendrological qualifications, but asserted that Eskom’s mandate demanded clear felling of all vegetation in an 8m strip alongside electricity lines.”

Van Bart said that many of the trees were “years” from reaching powerlines. “We realise Eskom has to keep the lines clean, but they could have talked to us and we could have made a plan. They took away the whole character of the town.”

Eskom did not respond to the Saturday Star on Friday.

Saturday Star