Sergeant Sibongiseni “Angel” Mkhize started growing veggies at her police station to give young locals a means to support themselves… and to turn them off crime. Picture: SAPS

For Sergeant Sibongiseni “Angel” Mkhize – who started a vegetable garden at her police station as a means of teaching self-sufficiency and to feed the indigent – the project is about more than food: it’s about empowerment.

Police spokeswoman Captain Nqobile Gwala said in response to The Mercury’s queries that Mkhize was employed at Estcourt Social Crime Prevention where she dealt with the Youth Desk. 

“The garden was established in August 2017 and is a teaching tool. Youth from Estcourt are invited to the police station where they are taught how to plant and tend a garden. The aim of this project is to encourage the youth to start their own gardens in their communities. This will offer them an opportunity for employment and will serve to feed themselves and their family.”

Gwala said the idea was that the youth would be doing something positive to benefit themselves and the community and they would have no desire or the need to commit crimes in order to survive.

The garden yields spinach, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, beetroot, and green pepper. 

“The vegetables are donated to members of the community who visit clinics and need to eat a healthy meal while taking medication. Other recipients are households where there is no breadwinner.”

Mkhize, she said, also went out to the community to teach them gardening and responsible water use, advocating the use of grey water to water gardens. 

“She started out with a few packs of seeds she bought herself. Since then a local farmer saw the initiative and supplied more seeds which Mkhize has distributed to schools and the community so that they may start their own gardens.”

Mkhize tends the garden by herself during teaching sessions with the youth and, over weekends, does the gardening herself. 

“She believes that if you do something yourself, with your bare hands, others will trust you and follow your example.”

Gwala said the biggest stumbling block for most of the youth was the lack of a space to make a garden. 
“Another farmer in the area has approached her and she is hopeful that the initiative will soon spread its wings.”