Where’s the demon tree next to the road to Sabie?

For many of us it is still fresh in the mind when five years ago a majestic wild fig standing in the way of the new duel carriageway development of the N4, was saved by a public protest led by Lowvelder.

Other than removing the stately old tree, the farmer adjacent, Mr Christo Nel offered additional land, free of charge, for the road to be built around it. After professional trimming, the tree today stands as a green monument at the entrance to Mbombela to illustrate how progress and conservation can exist in unison.

1970.04 (Medium)I wonder how many of us can still remember a similar incident almost  46 years ago when another significant Lowveld tree was saved from the axe. The late ’60s and ’70s were boom days for road building in die Lowveld and the escarpment. Roads like the Panorama Route and the Kowyns Pass were upgraded to modern tarred ones as the area’s tourism started to boom. The old Transvaal Provincial Council and its administration went to great lengths to market the area and its historic and natural assets as an important South African tourist destination.

Among these modern carriageways to be built in 1970 was a smooth tarred road between White River and Sabie. Somewhere next to the old road, slap bang in the middle of the planned new route, stood a giant Cidrella Ttunda or Indian mahogany. Though not an indigenous species, this was a well-known landmark on the old sand road between these towns.The following appeared in The Lowvelder of 10 April 1970: Clemency for Tree of Demons.

“Even in times of ruthless carving away of hillsides to make way for highways, a tree can still sway the road. Road constructors were ordered to fell the tree that stands smack in the middle of the new highway under construction between White River and Sabie.

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“But appeals for clemency this week resulted in a successful intervention by Mr. RS Ferreira, MEC and a reprieve for the tree. “The road will be diverted and the huge tree will stand fast… sentinel of the hillside.

“The local people have long regarded the tree with foreboding. “Stories go of passers-by being assaulted by all manner of demons suspected to be lurking in the branches. They therefore anticipated the removal of the tree, but in vain: tourist and picnickers will still be able to stop in its shade.”

But today, nearly 50 years later, a big mystery remains. Where along the road between Sabie and White River was or is this tree? Has it survived the further test of times?

We hope very much that some of our readers remember the incident and still know where this spot is. Please contact Marius Bakkes at [email protected] or 013-754-1600 during office hours.LVF0108_001_11630586262-1

Marius Bakkes

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