Djo BaNkuna, a resident of Theresa Park in Pretoria North, said that he was threatened with arrest by Tshwane metro police last Thursday for planting vegetables on his pavement, instead of grass, flowers or trees.
BaNkuna says the police threatened, “If you don’t remove this garden by Tuesday (14 September) we have to unleash the law on you.”
He said that he suspects some resident had reported to the metro police that the garden attracts vagrants to whom he gives food when he has a surplus.
BaNkuna said that ever since he started the garden, he has only had compliments from neighbours and passersby. On Thursday, he says, “I was sitting here working from home. A police van with two armed metro police stopped at my gate to tell me that planting vegetables on my pavement was not allowed. I thought they were joking, but they emphasised how serious this offence was and that the pavement is municipal land and I can’t plant vegetables.”
BaMkuna further said that the metro police gave him three options to choose from:
- Seek permission from the city council to plant vegetables on the pavement;
- Remove all produce from the land and never plant any vegetables on the pavement again; or
- Plant grass and roses.
BaNkuna said he went straight for option one – to seek permission from the city council to continue planting vegetables on the pavement.
“The reason I established that vegetable patch in 2019 was to meet some of our immediate needs, but also save a bit of money from my side because vegetables are really expensive. Also, my wife is a social worker in Soshanguve… she meets all sorts of people with different problems and hunger is among these, so the vegetable garden comes in handy.”
On Friday morning, BaNkuna and his wife headed to the Tshwane municipality council offices to seek permission where they met bylaw officials who told them they don’t issue any permits to plant vegetables on pavements, instead they were told they can plant anything there at their own risk. He has said that if he must, he will remove the garden on Tuesday.
Police officials have said that he does not have to remove the garden completely but he has to clear at least two metres so people can have space to walk, as pedestrians have allegedly complained that they have no space on the sidewalk to walk there.
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