The Princess Vlei Forum Madiba Day event had a surprise guest of honour: Marcus Griebelaar, from Retreat, who had the privilege of driving Nelson Mandela from 1995 to 2007.
A local resident, Griebelaar frequently walks around Princess Vlei, and came to join the forum in planting 95 plants in 67 minutes on Sunday. One of the plants was a milkwood tree, dedicated to Mandela.
‘Mr Mandela was such a humble, gentle man,’ Griebelaar said. ‘I never once saw him angry.
‘In February, 2003 we drove past here – my baby daughter had just been born, and Mr Mandela wanted to meet her.
‘As we drove past Princess Vlei, Mr Mandela asked about it, and I explained it was a place where people come to braai and enjoy themselves. And he said, “One day, Marcus, you must come and fetch me so we can have a braai here.”’
The tree planted for Mandela was blessed by Bishop Chirstopher Gergorowski, who prayed that the tree and surrounding garden ‘be a symbol for hope and unity in the future’.
A tree was also planted in honour of Reverend John Oliver, founder member of Princess Vlei Forum who died tragically on July 4 this year.
In dedicating this tree, Philip Bam, chairperson of the PVF, remarked that in the Book of Genesis, God asks Adam to take care of his garden. ‘Father John took this injunction seriously, and tended God’s garden wherever he found it… Father John said no to the mall and yes to what the people want for the Princess.’
In blessing Father John’s tree, Bishop Gregorowski committed it to God, saying the tree was ‘a symbol of our determination to plant a garden here to dress the princess and to dedicate this place to Your glory as part of Your garden.’
The dedication of volunteers in donating and planting fynbos at Princess Vlei affirms once more the commitment of our citizens to preserving this space from the inappropriate and destructive development of a shopping mall. This planting was part of a sustained, voluntary community effort to restore the endemic fynbos and create a habitat for pollinators, boosting our unique floral diversity and ensuring the health of all the wetlands in the area as well as the Princess Vlei itself.