The state has dismissed the case against Djo BaNkuna, better known as the “Cabbage Bandit” after he was served with a notice for growing vegetables outside his house in Pretoria. According to reports, BaNkuna was given two options by the Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD). Either he would pay a fine of R1 500 or appear in the Wonderboom Municipal Court.
However, on September 30 the TMPD made a u-turn in their decision following heavy backlash from several organisations and the media. The department then decided to drop the charges against BaNkuna, but he was still issued with a fine for intentionally interfering with municipal property.
A spokesperson for the Tshwane metro police department, Isaac Mahamba indicated that BaNkuna committed no crime. All that he actually committed was an offence in terms of the Road Traffic Act, as Daily Maverick reported.
BaNkuna confirmed the dismissal in a Facebook post on Monday, November 22, stating that he received a letter last week Wednesday from the Acting Director for Municipal Courts Prosecution, notifying him about the withdrawal of the case.
“This was after I submitted my representations on September 28 arguing that there was no case against me. That I did not break any municipal bylaws by planting cabbage and onions rather than grass and roses.
“I argued that the municipal amenities bylaw that was cited on my R1500 fine was desperate and irrelevant as there was no such a public amenity at the corner of my property. My house is not a public amenity. I decried the blatant abuse of power by the TMPD, specifically commander Elvis Ndlovu. The prosecutors agree. No case,” BaNkuna explained.
BaNkuna went on to say that the cabbage saga was an unfortunate event that left a deep traumatic impact on him and his family because of the relentless show of undue force by the TMPD and the fervent attempt to disparage him in the media.
“The malicious actions by Mr Elvis Ndlovu and his team and the misinformation and defamatory campaign by Mr Jordan Griffith and Mr Isaac Mahamba were painful. I am a patriot and a law-abiding citizen. The failed attempt by the TMPD and the City Of Tshwane’s Mayoral Office to portray me as a rascal and a hooligan is unfortunate and hurting.
“In my case, the public servants chose to suspend that area of the law by acting ultra vires. They harassed, victimised, defamed and abused my family. 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. I do not wish to fight to the death. I could sue, raise a massive dust storm and get paid. But that is not me. I hope that lessons were learned from this saga by all the parties,” BaNkuna reiterated.
Meanwhile, some food gardeners across South Africa have also supported BaNkuna through the ordeal, while others raised funds for his legal representation. Some lawyers also offered to provide legal services free of charge.
Picture: Facebook/ Djo BaNkuna