Cabbage Bandit

A tricky patch: Pretoria resident awaits wrath of law for growing vegetables on pavement

By Michelle Banda 13 September 2021

Djo BaNkuna at his 32-square-metre vegetable patch in Theresa Park, Pretoria North. (Photo: Supplied)

Djo BaNkuna says a metro police station commander told him that vegetable gardens belong inside yards and cabbages are not allowed to be grown outside.

Michelle Banda

Djo BaNkuna, a resident of Theresa Park in Pretoria North, says that last Thursday he was threatened with arrest by Tshwane metro police officers 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 suspects some residents had reported to the metro police that the garden attracts vagrants to whom he gives food when he has a surplus. 

BaNkuna told Maverick Citizen 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.”  

BaNkuna says the metro police further 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 says 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, Lorrika, headed to the Tshwane municipality council offices to seek permission. They met bylaw officials who told them they do not issue any permits to plant vegetables on pavements. Instead, they were told they can plant anything there at their own risk. 

“Johan Welmans, councillor at the City of Tshwane, told us we could continue with our pavement vegetable patch, but should the municipality want to do anything to the planted land they will not ask for permission because, after all, it’s their land.” 

On their way back home from the municipality BaNkuna and his wife  decided to stop at the metro police offices to give feedback. 

“Yerr! It was a very bad mistake from my side. Upon arrival at Winternest my wife and I were rudely ushered to the angry metro police station commander, Mr Elvis Ndlovu.” 

BaNkuna says the commander told them that vegetable gardens belong inside yards and cabbages are not allowed to be grown outside.

BaNkuna says the metro police stopped at his house again on Sunday to remind him of the Tuesday deadline. He was, however, not home. 

“I am waiting for tomorrow (Tuesday) to see what is going to happen. If tomorrow they say there is no law against cabbage but if the commander in Winternest does not like it I will remove it.” DM/MC

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All Comments 19

  • You have gotta be kidding me. In what skewed, nut-job world can it possibly be (not) illegal to grow veggies on your pavement and get harassed by the police. When helping others in need becomes a punishable offence then the future is a slippery slide for all of us

    • In the world of GrootBek Cele. Look out for his police helicopter (one of the 7 out of 16 that can still fly) landing on that pavement so he can show what a MAN he is when this fine citizen gets arrested!
      Used to be that the council in Johannesburg mowed the pavements but this stopped long ago so we have to mow it ourselves, despite the ridiculous rates we pay? This is food for thought, just that veggies need a lot of water but at least you don’t have to mow them every week.
      Where are the DA councilors when you need them to make an issue out of this.

  • So it is ok to plant anything else as long as it is not food? This is harsh, from what I gather the patch seems to be well maintained so also aesthetically pleasing.

    Granted planting should be at own risk since it’s council’s land but threatening someone is heavy handed.

  • This is ludicrous. The more we can grow vegetables everywhere, private land or municipal land the better off we are. The police have the time and resources to harass a neighbourly man, growing food for homeless people, but they have no time or resources to arrest GBV offenders, corrupt and thieving municipal and national councillors, or looting insurrectionists. Cry the beloved country!

  • Djo BaNkuna probably knows that he and his family have a brother in Los Angeles: Ron Finley. A wonderful success story with the same motivation – using space that nobody else cares about to grow desperately needed food. His Ted Talk has been viewed by 3.5 million people.
    ‘“People looked at my garden like ‘your little hobby’ or something, now people realise this is no damn hobby, this is life and death. This is our revolution,” says Finley.’

  • Djo Bankunu posted his story in his own words on the Livingseeds Vegetable Gardeners FB group. We are a lovely supportive group and I am happy to say most of us were outraged by the heavy-handed behaviour of the police. One member, who is an advocate, offered to defend Mr Bankunu for free if they take it further. So bring it on, Elvis!

  • The station commander Elvis is probably a little high … so I suggest he plant some dagga instead of the cabbage ! That should go down well ! I am surprised the police besides telling him to plant roses, did not tell him the variety without thorns ! The police comedians in charge of law and order in this country really need to get a life … and stop smelling the roses they want the people to plant. They should smell the coffee !

  • You can plant trees and flowers ???
    Even worse you can trade on the pavement blocking the entrance to my business, your canvassed enclosure legitimate ???

  • When I lived in Pretoria, in Lynnwood Ridge, homeowners planted threes and spiky sisal and cactuses to keep pedestrians off “their” pavements. You had to walk in the street. I am not aware that there was any council action to block that!

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