Seed to fight crime

2017-03-27 14:32
Sthembiso Nxele plants a Cassava plant in the food security garden in Northdale.

Sthembiso Nxele plants a Cassava plant in the food security garden in Northdale. (Ian Carbutt)

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A Northdale man is seething after municipal officials who were clearing verges allegedly entered a seed bank project and threw around his religious icons.

Calvin Govender has, from 2015, been using the vacant municipal land on Springvale Road, near Springhaven Primary School, to start a food security outreach programme for impoverished communities.

In the garden there were also some wild dagga plants, which he said he sometimes used for herbal tea.

The officials removed wild dagga plants, which Govender said were to be used for sale for hemp products and as tea for cancer prevention.

Govender said approximately 12 municipal officials in four vehicles (NPC 3122, NPC 739, NPC 3261 and NPC 3118) arrived and “indicated that they were instructed to conduct verge clearing”.

“They subsequently entered the garden and began chopping down plants. When I attempted to question or take photographs of them, I was threatened with violence by one official.”

Govender said the officials cut and loaded most of the plants onto a municipal bakkie and drove away.

He said they had also thrown around his religious objects.

Govender said he could not understand why cannabis was grouped with “hard drugs” when in fact, it is a non-toxic plant with proven pain relief properties. Govender said he is very passionate about the rights and religion of Rastafarians as their use of dagga is “purely religious”.

“I am currently in the process of preparing to talk at a local high school with many dagga smokers about the alternative use of dagga. I want to encourage youngsters to stop smoking dagga and teach them about the health benefits the herb has when used as tea,” he said.

Govender said his non-profit organisation, Springhaven Seed Bank Harm Reduction Centre, intends to cultivate indigenous seeds that can be shared with those who cannot afford to buy food. Govender said by providing people with free seeds to grow in their gardens, he hopes to reduce crime as he believes most crimes stem from hunger and poverty.

“The prime mandate of this organisation is to reduce violent crime, which includes murder, rape, hijacking and robbery, as these crimes happen because the unemployed seek alternative ways to put food on their tables.

“We aim to do this by adopting a soft approach, which shifts police and the Department of Justice resources away from non-violent criminals — such as those who plant and use cannabis [as well as] sex-workers,” said Govender.

He added he considers prostitution and the use of dagga as non-violent crimes because there are no victims in these crimes. “These people are actually twice victimised. These government institutions bolster their crime statistics by targeting weaker community members,” he said.

Govender wants to work closely with the municipality as he is hopeful that they can help make his organisation more sustainable and fight poverty in the city.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the laws around the growth and use of dagga have not changed and it still remains illegal and is also still considered to be a drug. She said she was unable to comment on the allegations that municipal workers threw the religious icons around.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dagga

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