The Union Buildings, Pretoria

Letsoalo wants his gardeners, irrigation specialists and stonemasons - about 130 in total - to know each other, to feel included in decision-making, and to hopefully be permanently employed by the Department of Public Works. Their contract has already been extended and he has recently appointed additional staff, so a braaivleis is arranged to coincide with Youth Day, the public holiday that commemorates the student protests of 16 June 1976 in Soweto. Letsoalo was then a young man in Orlando East (Soweto) and he will tell his workers, many of whom too young to remember apartheid firsthand, what it was really like.

The Union Buildings gardens have given him a new lease on life, after two long years of unemployment and deep despondency and he has made it work for others, even university graduates who need to make ends meet while looking for employment in their fields.

The originators of the gardens - perhaps after overcoming a certain shock - must surely be pleased from their musty beyond at the continuity represented by the gardens.

It is still beautiful, it is still a favourite backdrop for wedding pictures, it still gives grandeur to the city and the country.

In brief

The gardens were laid out by the architect Herbert Baker, Chief Conservator of Forests CE Legat and Dr IB Pole Evans, director of the Botanical Survey, ‘‘a most interesting man, wide awake, and a good botanist” (Homer Leroy Shantz) and ‘‘a man of more than ordinary ability, energy and determination” (his Grassland Society of Southern Africa obituary).

The gardens are particularly appreciated by Chinese tourists who are there, Letsoalo says, every day of the week.

The entire grounds are under surveillance - there are even cameras hidden in trees.

Now and then a snake makes its way to the terraces. Policy is that no wildlife harboured in the arboretum and wild areas surrounding the formal garden may be harmed, merely relocated to a more secluded part of the grounds.