I will chop it up if they charge me: Tshwane man on pavement cabbages

Iavan Pijoos Journalist
Joe Nkuna planted mielies, pumpkin and other crops at a nearby park after being granted permission by the site's manager.
Joe Nkuna planted mielies, pumpkin and other crops at a nearby park after being granted permission by the site's manager.
Image: Supplied

Remove the cabbages from the pavement in front of your house or answer to the law.

This is the warning a Tshwane resident was given after the city’s metro police department (TMPD) paid him a visit at his home on September 9.

Joe Nkuna, from Theresapark in Akasia, said TMPD officers had given him until Tuesday to remove the cabbages or be charged.

On Monday Nkuna told SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE he started the vegetable garden in front of his house in 2019 to help his wife, who volunteers as part of her social work duties in Soshanguve.  

There is no need for a fight to the death over a head of cabbage.
Tshwane resident Joe Nkuna

He said his wife would often take clothes and  books and buy vegetables to help those in need.

The idea of a vegetable garden came to mind when they were busy renovating their home.

Nkuna said at first they wanted to plant grass and roses but it would have cost “a lot of money”.

“I planted vegetables because they were cheaper and I wanted to assist her.”

He said in the three years of pavement gardening, he had harvested 65 heads of pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beetroot and onions.

“In March, I donated 35 massive pumpkins and 145kg of sweet potato from here. It became so successful that I moved the vegetable garden to opposite the street to the recreational park, where I planted mielies, pumpkin and other crops.

Joe Nkuna's pavement vegetable garden.
Joe Nkuna's pavement vegetable garden.
Image: Supplied

According to Nkuna, he has a “very good relationship” with the park manager, who agreed to allow him to plant vegetables there.

“On Thursdays, the recycling guys get food from my bins. I leave vegetables there for them and I leave a note to say they must take one and leave for others.

“Planting outside was to save money and to donate.”

Things changed on September 9 when two Tshwane metro police officers visited his home.

“The metro officers were very polite and complimented my property. I thought they were there to ask for cabbage but they told me there was a complaint about my garden and I can’t plant vegetables outside.

I have no appetite to fight them in courts because there is more to life.
Joe Nkuna on his pavement garden

“They said it was against the rules and if I wanted to plant vegetables outside I needed to get permission.”

Nkuna said he was given until Tuesday to remove the vegetables or face the full might of the law.

He said he went to the building control offices at the City of Tshwane on Friday and applied for a permit to plant vegetables outside his home.

Nkuna said he was informed there was no such bylaw prohibiting him from having vegetables in front of his yard.

“They [officials] took us through the bylaws, which stated that when you plant, you plant at your own risk and you can plant whatever you want.”

He said he was sent home empty-handed and decided to swing past the metro police department offices in Winternest to inform them about the situation.

“In my excitement, which I now regret, I went to inform the metro police department.”

Nkuna claimed that they were met by a disgruntled official who “angered up”.

“He didn’t even greet us and just told us to sit down. I realised this thing is not going to go well.”

In March 2021, Joe Nkuna said he donated 35 massive pumpkins and 145kg of sweet potatoes from his garden.
In March 2021, Joe Nkuna said he donated 35 massive pumpkins and 145kg of sweet potatoes from his garden.
Image: Supplied

He said the official failed to listen to his concerns and did not want to give him a written notice of his contravention.

Nkuna said while he was out with his wife on Sunday, four officers came looking for him at his home.

“They didn’t find me because I was not around, but they spoke to my son and asked me where I was. They didn’t explain why they were there and only said they will see me on Tuesday.”

As the deadline for Tuesday looms, several lawyers have offered to represent Nkuna pro-bono.

But Nkuna said he did not want a “fight to the death”.

The road reserve belongs to the municipality. It is correct to get permission from council first.
Tshwane community safety MMC Karen Meyer

“If Tshwane bylaws outlaw the planting of cabbage and onions outside, I will remove it. I will chop it.

“If metro cops come tomorrow and tell me to chop the cabbages, I have no appetite to fight them in courts because there is more to life. I will remove it. My wife is not happy about this thing, but I have no appetite to fight.

“There is no need for a fight to the death over a head of cabbage.”

Tshwane MMC for community safety Karen Meyer confirmed a complaint about Nkuna’s vegetable garden was received.  

“TMPD did not focus on it. They have to attend to all complaints and have to deal with it according to the city’s bylaws,” she said.

Meyer referred to section 8(1)a of the municipal bylaws that state “the road reserve belongs to the municipality”.

“Permission must be asked from a landowner before you do anything on someone else’s property. Any proposals to change the current bylaw would be investigated,” she said.

“It is correct to get permission from council first.”

TMPD spokesperson Isaac Mahamba told TimesLIVE the Road Traffic Act did not allow obstructions on sidewalks and the offence was punishable with a fine of R150 to R1,500, depending on the discretion on an officer.

TimesLIVE


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.