Westlake gardeners are upset that they have no water for the veggies they grow and have to carry it from their homes.
The Masivuke organic food garden used to be at the Westlake United Church Trust (WUCT) community centre, but, in 2007, it moved to land in nearby Lynx Road to make way for a playground at Emmanuel Educare, which is also at the community centre.
The gardeners say they sell vegetables to the community. “It’s a nice partnership, particularly from the local Malawians, who asked us to plant Chinese cabbage and who also enjoy tomatoes,” said gardener Zukiswa Nbamane.
She said she gave veggies to the sick and elderly who were now asking if they had been forgotten.
Everything was going well until December 2018 when the electricity box that supplied power to the garden was broken by people cleaning the pavement, according to community leader Linah Jokazi, who runs the garden.
Then last year, also in December, a fire damaged the garden’s water tank. Since then, the gardeners have been collecting water from their homes or from the stream, Ms Jokazi said.
Lydia Ingpen, from the non-profit organisation, Amazing Grace, has been helping to supply water to the gardeners since last year. “We’ve also included them in the permaculture course that was arranged at Amazing Grace to teach them new ways of growing plants and when is best to grow which vegetables.”
She believes the gardeners have been promised electricity from the council for a long time but the problem has not yet been repaired. “Mama Linah works really hard in her garden. It really is one beautiful, clean, green space in Westlake,” said Ms Ingpen.
Ward councillor Carolynne Franklin said Ms Jokazi had been fined R6 000 for tampering with the City’s electricity meter system. “I have tried to assist her, but she first has to make arrangements to pay off the arrears/fine, or apply for the debt to be written off,” said Ms Franklin.
WUCT manager Pieter Greyling said one of their board members had been trying to pay off Ms Jokazi’s debt, but she was unwilling to provide the account number and details of the arrears.
“Just before Easter, they had a confrontation. I asked the board member to refrain from any other contact until the situation had cooled down.”
Ms Franklin said she could also assist with getting a new water tank through her donors, but Ms Jokazi would have to sort out the power first so that the water could be pumped into the tank.
Ms Jokazi said the gardeners received donations through the WUCT, but they would like a more transparent method of receiving the funds. She said she had asked the WUCT staff for an intermediary to discuss donation funding.
Mr Greyling said none of the money donated to the WUCT was earmarked for the garden. However, private donations were given to Ms Jokazi. “Tokai Methodist has also given substantial donations over a long time,” he said.
The WUCT had had a long relationship with Ms Jokazi and the garden she ran, said Mr Greyling. “We would like this relationship to be restored. Mediation would be wonderful. Any time. Any place. Any facilitator.”
Ms Jokazi said she had asked the City to fix the electricity box and she had gone to the Plumstead council office and had a case number, but she was getting nowhere with the issue.