Superheroes held in high esteem

Tuesday.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo looks most fetching in his red-trimmed deep-green robes as he delivers the judgment of the Constitutional Court confirming the Western Cape High Court’s ruling that South Africans may, indeed, possess, smoke and grow cannabis.

Granted, I’m biased, given my own affinity for the newly legal holy herb, but the deputy chief justice has the aura of a real-life superhero about him as he works his way, deliberately and precisely, through the unanimous judgment.

The earlier high court ruling overturned the ban on growing and possessing cannabis for own use in one’s private space.

Zondo’s decorous, sober robes are, in the moment, the cape of a more-than-human righter of wrongs — the cloak of a masked champion of justice, the trademark garment of a single-bound leaper of tall buildings.


I’ve known the deputy chief justice for most of my adult life, since I was a long-haired junior reporter at The Mercury and he was a leading labour lawyer operating in the Durban central business district. Back then Zondo was already a top man,a committed, talented, hard grafter with a heart, but today I’m looking at him with very different eyes, like one does when suddenly developing feelings for a person one has known forever.

Zondo stops, takes a long drink of water, and continues with the judgment. His tone is even, betraying nothing of the import of his words.

This is enormous.

Judges Dennis Davis, Vincent Saldanha and Nolwazi Boqwana may have put the ball in the court with their initial judgment, but Zondo and the rest of the Constitutional Court team have smashed it into the back of the net, with all of the deft artistry of a marauding Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Zondo’s words are beautiful.

“An adult person may use or be in possession of cannabis for his or her personal consumption in private.”

This is a big moment, one I’ve been waiting more than 30 years for.

Over nearly four decades I’ve been forced to hide, to live in paranoia. I’ve been locked up, beaten up, extorted for money and chased by the cops for bud. I’ve been forced to eat my stash, thrown in cells with robbers and rapists, humiliated and abused by the Babylon.

I’m one of the lucky ones — I know people who have endured worse for simply being in possession of ganja.

No more.

No more.

My eyes are suddenly wet.

I want to reach out and hug the deputy chief justice. Roll him a big one of the finest LA Confidential, if he’s up for it.

Think about it.

Carefully.

The cat who is busy chairing the commission of inquiry into the capture of our state by the Zuptas takes a morning break to decriminalise ganja, swiftly and surgically excising another malignant tumour of apartheid colonialism, while enshrining the rights of the subsistence grower and preventing the future monopolisation of cannabis by big capital, then returns to his task of unravelling the most despicable criminal enterprise to have existed in South Africa since the fall of the National Party regime.

Far out.

What a guy.

I wonder what he does for an encore?

I check my mail.

My grin widens.

The day is getting better.

There’s a letter from the press ombud. The ombud, in its wisdom, has dismissed a complaint against me by the minions of one Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, the president of the Inkatha Freedom Party, over my columns criticising him for the deal he struck with the Nats ahead of the 1994 elections to set up the Ingonyama Trust, continuing the dispossession of millions of South Africans living on tribally controlled land.

Shenge’s muppets had lodged several complaints claiming that there was no deal between him and the National Party, that he wasn’t a Bantustan leader and that my assertions were lies.

They argued that my version, that the trust was signed off on by FW de Klerk, when he was president and who was Shenge’s de facto boss, to keep him and King Goodwill Zwelithini — who had been threatening to boycott the 1994 elections — onside and to stop the slaughter that was taking place around the country, was “pure and unsubstantiated fabrication and fiction with no credible evidentiary support”.

It was an expected move — that’s how Shenge has rolled since the late 1970s — but a snide one nonetheless, another low-rent attempt to have history rewritten with the nasty truth about Buthelezi removed and his role as an apartheid quisling buried.

The ombud dismissed the complaint, pointing out, quite correctly, that I am entitled to an opinion and that the Mail & Guardian is entitled to print it.

Buthelezi’s version of events, that he fought against apartheid, that he didn’t work hand in glove with the Nats, stands somewhat in isolation, like the belief that the Earth is flat or that there is no such thing as state capture.

What a day.

Harper: 2 — Forces of Evil and Reaction: 0.

I close the laptop and head off to the garden for my first legal joint.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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