It’s that time when nature trumpets #JacarandaPropaganda

Trip reveals parallels and opposites between the two countries

In Summary

• Road to Pretoria is paved with jacarandas, but what are 'Kiuk' names doing in Joburg?

Economically, South Africa is further developed and its demographics are different with a much larger urbanised population
DRAWING PARALLELS Economically, South Africa is further developed and its demographics are different with a much larger urbanised population

Sometimes nature likes to boast. It’s jacaranda season and the purple blossom is in bloom, and from sleepy Pretoria to vibrant Nairobi, people are engaging in #JacarandaPropaganda. 

Actually, scratch that. Instead let me say: jacarandas are bursting out in a festival of purple in Pretoria. Not so much in Nairobi.

From what I hear, Nairobi decided that the iron snake and it’s cousin, a hellishly well-intentioned, elevated paved road, are more important than trees. 


In Pretoria, which isn’t shiny and bright like Johannesburg or Nairobi for that matter, the beauty of the city is visible to all at this time of year, when the Jacaranda trees do their thing.

Just like in Kenya, the jacaranda trees were brought from their native Argentina in South America specifically for ornamental purposes.

They are so popular in Pretoria that there are some who call it Jacaranda City.

Last week I was forced to make a whistle-stop visit to Pretoria, where I visited the High Commission to begin the process of acquiring the new (to me at least) e-passport. I would have done this earlier in the year, but the irritating matter of Covid-19 travel restrictions got in the way.

Speaking of which, does nobody of influence in the right circles read this column? For years I have dropped hints that I would happily accept the post of Consul General for the Government of Kenya in Cape Town, but dololo* as we say here in Mzansi**.

(*Dololo means nothing and please don’t even mention that place in Kwale. As for **Mzansi, well, you should know by now, surely.)

To get to that piece of Kenyan soil right here in South Africa, I had to brave two hours in a flying aluminium tube. If there was a consul here in Cape Town, as there was meant to be some years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of money. 


Flights are expensive, especially when the actual procedure you are going all the way for takes all of five minutes. 

Fortunately I have a few good friends around the world, and one of the dearest of them happens to live and work not too far away from the Kenya High Commission.

My friend sent her driver to pick me up from the airport, and as we drove through the city of gold in the heart of the golden province (that’s what Gauteng means), I felt that I was in a truly African city.

When I lived in Johannesburg nearly a decade ago, it marketed itself as “a world-class African city.” After eight years in Cape Town, which can sometimes be more European than Europe, I had forgotten the Joburg vibe. It was good to be back, even if only briefly.

I was busy absorbing how familiar, and in a way like Nairobi, my surroundings were, when suddenly a big billboard appeared out of the blue screaming: Kikuyu.

For a moment there I thought I had flown too far north and was actually in Nariobi, driving in a northwesterly direction. I blinked, and there the sign remained.

It turned out that Kikuyu is the name of an upmarket development in an area known as Waterval (waterfall) estate. And coming up next to Kikuyu is Munyaka (a Kikuyu word meaning good luck).

I immediately wondered what the Kenya connection was and briefly suspected that a Kenyan shambawallah had bought a kaploti in Gauteng.

Perhaps the people behind the development came across the words and thought they were exotic. 

Also, coming from Nairobi, where we have estates called Hurlingham, California, Jerusalem, Jericho, Lavington, Caledonia and even Tel Aviv, who am I to judge?

But because I can become just a little obsessed with such things, I have spent the last few days researching the whole development and trying to work out the Kenya connection to no avail. Perhaps if I ever do figure it out, it will be a story for another day. 

Today was meant to be about #JacarandaPropaganda.