Veggie vigilante faces criminal record for his pavement garden
The wrath of the law has been unleashed on Djo BaNkuna, the Pretoria resident who grows vegetables on his pavement instead of beautifying it with flowers, lawn or trees.
On 14 September the Tshwane Metro Police served BaNkuna with documents confirming his permanent criminal record on charges of intentionally interfering with the property of the municipality. BaNkuna has further been given two options:
Either he appears at the Wonderboom court on 23 November 2021; or He pays a fine of R1,500 within the next 30 days.
According to Tshwane Metro Police Department spokesman Isaac Mahamba, BaNkuna’s vegetable patch is obstructing a pavement that is reserved for pedestrians. This is per the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996, which regulates what is allowed on a public road reserve. Mahamba says the act is further supported by the bylaw on City Amenities in Section: 8(1)(a)(iii) – Interfering in any manner with the property of the municipality.
“Mr Nkuna does not own this land and cannot merely decide to use it for agricultural purposes. It is public land which needs to be accessed by all residents in the area; their rights must be protected,” said Mahamba.
Mahamba says what further alarms them is that BaNkuna on his public Facebook posts openly bragged about “grabbing” land. He says this challenges the City of Tshwane’s effort to combat land invasions that violate the rights of citizens.
BaNkuna says he has opted to appear in court so he can defend himself.
“Whatever happens there, a Section 27(1) (b) Constitutional Court application is also a reality. We must change the outlook and attitude towards food security and hunger. The road is long, but enlightenment is on the horizon.
“I would have let it go if I was not fined or charged, as I hoped that this matter could have been resolved amicably,” says BaNkuna.
Like-minded food gardeners across the nation have since organised themselves to support BaNkuna.
Olivia La Grange, admin of the Djo BaNkuna Support Group, says the group is a platform to support BaNkuna, but it is also a movement to raise awareness and link people who are keen or already have food gardens, whether at home or in community spaces.
Members of the We are South Africans group are also rallying behind BaNkuna. They have declared a protest.
“We, the people of South Africa, will with immediate effect protest against our government nationwide by planting our vegetable gardens on our pavements across South Africa and where we cannot we will leave baskets of vegetables on our pavement for the poor.
“We are also calling for an immediate withdrawal of charges against Djo BaNkuna, as well as an apology from the Minister of Justice, Tshwane Metro and disciplinary processes for abuse of power is instituted.”
We must change the outlook and attitude towards food security