Thirteen years ago, Mandiseli Maseti made a commitment to work for free for his Makhaza community.
He started drama, dance and theatre groups. But people were poor and did not have food, so he created a food garden where vegetables, herbs and plants could be grown.
The idea was not to sell the produce but to give it to his community for free.
Back in 2008, the idea was shot down by many, but he and a friend, who is no longer involved in the initiative, believed that township people ought to practise what they know best – working the soil – and they decided to forge ahead.
After his friend disappeared, Ras Ayabonga Nkitha stated working with him. They worked the soil, cultivating vegetables, plants and herbs.
“We give everything free here. To us the idea was not just about gardening, it was about community building,” said Mr Maseti.
“It also was about bringing people together in a safe space. There is safety when people know each other. We wanted a Makhaza where everyone will know and defend each other. We are for harmony.”
Now over the years, their little edible garden has grown, giving the community on the street and new neighbouring shack dwellers both a source of food and somewhere to come together.
“In most times we would go in all the streets just to give them spinach, onions and all that is in the garden. Now we are spreading to other close areas. Our hope is that one day the idea can spread nationwide,” he told Vukani.
He added that because of lockdown, they have reached out to more communities.
Ras Nkitha said encouraged others to do more for their communities to create peace and harmony.
“We managed to take something that is dead space and turned it into something for everyone. I am learning a lot here. But what is important to me is to give out freely to my community. One thing people do not realise is that it is therapeutic growing stuff around you. There is a good feeling of fresh air and health. Plants and herbs are helpful and therapeutic,” he said.
The two now have a group of volunteers working with them.