The case against Tshwane’s cabbage bandit has been withdrawn. But vegetable garden enthusiast Djo BaNkuna says the whole ordeal has traumatised him and his family.
BaNkuna confirmed in a Facebook post that he’d received a letter from the city’s municipal court notifying him about the withdrawal of the case against him.
BaNkuna, through the assistance of his lawyer, who took on the case free of charge, made representations in the case in September.
He argued that no municipal by-laws were broken when he planted cabbage and onions, rather than grass and roses, in front of his home.
“I argued that the municipal amenities by-law that was cited on my R1,500 fine was desperate and irrelevant as there was no such a public amenity at the corner of my property,” posted the Cabbage Bandit.
“My house is not a public amenity. I decried the blatant abuse of power by the TMPD [Tshwane Metro Police Department], specifically commander Elvis Ndlovu. The prosecutors agree. No case,” he said.
Tshwane’s firm stance against cabbage banditry
Isaac Mahamba, the spokesperson for the TMPD, said at the time that officers routinely conducted inspections and responded to complaints, in line with their responsibilities to conduct by-law enforcement.
Mahamba said BaNkuna did not own this land and could not decide to use it for agricultural purposes.
“What is further alarming is that on his public Facebook posts, he has openly bragged about ‘grabbing’ land. This is deeply alarming because the City of Tshwane is actively trying to combat land invasions which violate the rights of citizens,” Mahamba said previously.
“The cabbage saga was an unfortunate event that left a deep traumatic impact on myself and my family, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said BaNkuna.
“The relentless show of undue force by the TMPD and the fervent attempt to vilify me in the media, all had their toll on us.
“The malicious actions by Mr Elvis Ndlovu, his team and the misinformation and defamatory campaign by Mr Jordan Griffiths [acting chief of staff to the Tshwane mayor] and Mr Isaac Mahamba were painful.”
BaNkuna slammed the city, asking what would have happened if he did not choose to stand up to their bullying.
“What if I did not have access to good legal representation? What if I buckled under such tremendous intimidation and paid the unlawful fine? I would be having an unlawful criminal record for a lawful act.”
“Many powerless and innocent citizens suffer as I did without any legal recourse. Abuse of government administrative power is the ultimate violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens,” said baNkuna.
Once news of City of Tshwane’s hardened stance on BaNkuna became public, vegetable garden enthusiasts around the country voiced their support for the “Cabbage Bandit”.
That same month, President Cyril Ramaphosa promoted pavement gardening, saying government would “ensure the unrestricted development of urban and pavement gardens where crops can be planted to increase food security.”
The Citizen has reached out to the City of Tshwane and TMPD for comment. We will update the story when we hear from them.
Additional reporting by Marizka Coetzer