A burglary, which showed no visible signs of forced entry apart from missing garden tools, has hamstrung Westlake’s community garden for more than three months.
Undeterred, the gardeners have resorted to borrowing tools from neighbours and friends, but 74-year-old Linah Jokazi, who oversees the garden, says they are struggling and need help.
The Masivuke organic food garden has more than ten gardeners who each maintain one or more plots, each about the size of a door frame. Some gardeners sell what they can, others, like the members of Women of Westlake, a non-profit organisation, supply their produce to a feeding scheme in the area.
The garden tools were stolen from a locked shed converted from a shipping container. The prepaid electricity meter was also damaged.
“On Wednesday, December 21, at 8am, one of the gardeners discovered that the storage container door was forced open,” said Kirstenhof police spokeswoman Sergeant Deidre Solomon. “The power box was damaged and tools were taken to the value of R5000.”
Police are investigating the theft, but no one has been arrested.
Ms Jokazi said there had been no sign of forced entry. “The door lock was not broken. The windows and burglar bars are not broken. How did they enter here? The only thing that was broken was the power box – all the wires were cut.
“There is something cooking – thugs don’t want us to work here. It’s no mistake for them to break in here.”
Most of the tools were rakes, spades and hoes. An extension cord, which was used to connect the borehole pump to electricity from a neighbouring plot, was also taken.
The garden has been without its own electricity supply since December 2018 (“Westlake gardeners need water and electricity,” Bulletin, June 2, 2022).
Ms Jokazi said, the garden had suffered several burglaries over the years along with the theft of produce and illegal dumping on the pavement in front of the garden.
Ms Jokazi said she was the only with a key to the container, but she added that she would usually hang it up inside the container while working in the garden.
Pieter Greyling, general manager of Westlake United Church Trust, said he suspected someone had made a duplicate of the key.
Ward councillor Carolynne Franklin said it was sad that much of the vandalism and theft at the garden over the years appeared to emanate from the very community it served.
“I can only encourage the residents to sign up with the Westlake Neighbourhood Watch so that extra eyes and ears can be added.”
However, Anthea Thebus, chairwoman of Women of Westlake, doesn’t believe residents are to blame for the theft of the tools.
“The garden doesn’t attract robberies. We have people staying next to the garden, people we feed at our feeding scheme’s kitchen, and they keep an eye out on the garden for us.”
Ms Jokazi said despite the setbacks, the gardeners were determined to bring in their harvest. “They are trying to block us, they are wasting their time. We are going to borrow and we are going to work in this garden.”
To donate any garden tools to the garden, contact Linah Jokazi at 063 201 7423.