First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

We'd like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick

More specifically, we'd like those who can afford to pay to start paying. What it comes down to is whether or not you value Daily Maverick. Think of us in terms of your daily cappuccino from your favourite coffee shop. It costs around R35. That’s R1,050 per month on frothy milk. Don’t get us wrong, we’re almost exclusively fuelled by coffee. BUT maybe R200 of that R1,050 could go to the journalism that’s fighting for the country?

We don’t dictate how much we’d like our readers to contribute. After all, how much you value our work is subjective (and frankly, every amount helps). At R200, you get it back in Uber Eats and ride vouchers every month, but that’s just a suggestion. A little less than a week’s worth of cappuccinos.

We can't survive on hope and our own determination. Our country is going to be considerably worse off if we don’t have a strong, sustainable news media. If you’re rejigging your budgets, and it comes to choosing between frothy milk and Daily Maverick, we hope you might reconsider that cappuccino.

We need your help. And we’re not ashamed to ask for it.

Our mission is to Defend Truth. Join Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

We need an enabling legal framework for urban agricultu...

Defend Truth


We need an enabling legal framework for urban agriculture, including those who want to plant vegetables on the pavement


Michael Sun is a DA Councillor in the City of Johannesburg. A lawyer by profession, he was the MMC for Public Safety under the 2016-2019 administration and is currently the DA Johannesburg Spokesperson for Public Safety.

We need to investigate and devise a framework of policy and legislation that paves the way for a free and fair process to allow people to access unused parcels of public land and make them productive.

I followed the recent storm on social media regarding the man in Tshwane who planted a vegetable garden first in a park and then on a pavement (read about it here) — public open spaces in official speak — and like many people was conflicted: I admired his initiative and entrepreneurial spirit, especially in addressing food security in his local community, but at the same time, I knew that this went against the law.

Like Tshwane, Joburg has an Open Spaces By-law that governs what can and cannot happen in a public open space: parks, road reserves (pavements), and all the other small pieces of land controlled by government. 

This by-law prevents anyone from digging in or planting in a public open space and is intended to keep public parks open to everyone to enjoy the outdoors and stop anyone from digging up the pavement in front of your house (though companies can apply to install services like fibre, but this is controlled). It ensures that no one can take over your local park and do whatever they want in it — public spaces are for the public, not just a single private interest.

However, we do need to acknowledge that there are plenty of open pieces of land across Joburg that are not parks and are not pavements in front of a home where the owner takes great pride in planting and maintaining their pavement. I know I drive past so many pieces of land that I think could be made useful for the local community — if not as a park then as a small plot for growing vegetables, fruit, or flowers. I’ve seen cases of communities in Joburg adopting a public space (which the city does allow) to beautify through planting indigenous trees and flowers, which no doubt creates a sense of pride for community members. 

In many parts of Europe, there is a strong tradition of allocating allotments on public land — small parcels that are leased to local community members who don’t have their own gardens but want to have a small food garden. Surplus produce is usually shared amongst the community or sold at a local market.

These forms of urban agriculture can be an excellent solution to the problem of food security — a problem made worse under the current pandemic. Child malnutrition is a serious issue that impacts children’s health and learning. Hospitals and clinics across Gauteng have been reporting increases in child malnutrition during the pandemic, and we know that when schools were closed the Department of Education had to be taken to court to provide the free meals that so many learners depend on.

I would like to see all the small pieces of land that aren’t being used as parks or protected biodiversity spaces (usually wetland areas), made available to local community members or urban agriculture entrepreneurs so that we can support small, local businesses, and increase pride in our neighbourhoods. This can lead to a thriving urban agriculture industry, which can both drive job creation and initiatives to provide food to schools, old age homes, soup kitchens, shelters, and other organisations which need this support. 

As for homeowners: you should be allowed to plant a food garden on the pavement in front of your home as long as you don’t obstruct pedestrian walkways.

While I certainly support the TMPD in upholding the rule of law, we need to look at an enabling framework of policy and legislation that sees a free and fair process for people to access these unused parcels of public land, and make them productive. We must do everything we can to encourage this entrepreneurial spirit in our country, especially where it can help to increase security through more eyes on the street, drive local industry, tackle hunger and food security, and create jobs. DM/MC


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 1

  • This is a subject close to my heart. Michael Sun sums it up well. You do need to have laws so that these spaces are not abused in any way and yes, we all want urban gardens.
    Easily resolved if the municipalities applied their minds. How much effort would it take to have a digital format(an app)to apply and be granted permission. One can load addresses, photos etc. Project would have to comply with set paramaters and then inspection by a municipal authority could take place. Easy peasy. Unfortunately, politicians and municipal managers do not have the imagination for such things, otherwise they would already be in place. That is the kind of thing I would vote for.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted