Residents of Tshidzini village near Thohoyandou in Limpopo are concerned over the illegal harvesting and smuggling of Breonadia salicina trees, which are also known as Mingerhout or the Matumi tree.
The protected trees – often referred to as the woodworker’s friend because of their hard and heavy wood, are widely used in the manufacturing of fine furniture and vehicle dashboards.
Locally known as Mutulume, it is one of the strongest and oldest known indigenous trees. It is mainly found in wet, tropical regions like the Vhembe district in Limpopo.
Good for conservation
It grows along river banks and the oldest are believed to be several thousand years old. Ecologists say the tree preserves water and provides refuge for wildlife such as birds and snakes.
Tshidzini community representative, Robert Magara, says they are working with the relevant authorities to protect the trees.
“We are very much concerned about what is happening. This is a very important tree because we get water from it. So, it preserves water. Some people get medicine from it. It also helps us as a windbreaker during windy seasons. We have to protect it!” Magara adds.
The breonadia salicina is protected under National Forest Act of 1998.
Ecologist Ndivhuho Khantshi says the harvesting and smuggling of the tree are illegal and carry a minimum sentence of three years in prison.
Khantshi explains, “Mutulume is protected under the National Forest Act number 94 of 1998, under Section 15 sub-section 1, where it cites that no one is allowed to cut the tree, purchase or sell it and, or even sell any product that comes from it.”
Fine for felling the Tree
Vhembe District Environment and Tourism Assistant Director, Shavhani Neluvhola, says they are concerned about the cutting down of the trees as the tree is important for the lives and culture of the people in the area, as it protects the fountains and boundaries of the rivers.
“Destroying it is destroying our ecosystem,” Neluvhola adds.
Some people, who were apprehended for cutting down the trees, were handed a spot fine of over R 2000.