Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Police can smoke out dagga farmers

Agriculture minister Senzeni Zokwana has told Eastern Cape cannabis farmers not to expect protection from his department against the spraying of herbicides by police to destroy their crops.

The minister says he will wait two years until Parliament amends the legislation decriminalising cannabis before meeting the farmers.

The changes to the law were ordered by the Constitutional Court when it found that the criminalisation of the private use, possession and cultivation of the plant infringed the right to privacy.

“Eastern Cape growers should not to be emboldened to press ahead with planting until the parliamentary process is finalised,” Zokwana told the Mail & Guardian.

This week the police warned that flyover operations in Pondoland and Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape would resume if necessary, as the judgment did not protect large-scale cultivation.

“Even if we were planning it, we wouldn’t be able to tell you,” police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said.

He added: “You can’t grow a whole field of cannabis and say that’s in your personal space for your private use. You can have a few trees but I think the reasonable- man test will come in. Until the legislation is made much clear[er], every case will have to be tested in court,” he said. 

Zokwana said there were some aspects that Parliament needed to clarify “such as [the] amounts accepted by law”.

“People must be patient as [I] can’t issue orders to the police minister,” he added.

But Zokwana has flagged the economic potential of commercial cannabis farming after Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s judgment last month and he leads the inter-ministerial committee to develop the regulation of hemp.

The committee includes the departments of health, trade and industry, justice and environmental affairs, the Agricultural Research Council and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Zokwana’s spokesperson, Khaye Nkwanyane, said the agriculture department had already formally requested the health and justice departments to consider also amending the law “to allow for the commercialisation of hemp in South Africa”.

In 2015 the police were accused of destroying 500 hectares of cannabis crops and rural farmland by spraying glyphosate, a herbicide usually used to clear perennial weeds. Villagers in Pondoland reported developing skin irritations and respiratory problems after the operation, triggering a civil society campaign to prevent it from happening again.

Meanwhile, cannabis activists have been traversing the country since the judgment to prepare a combined submission on behalf of South Africa’s “underground” market. So far they’ve held meetings with farmers in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, said activist Myrtle Clarke.

“Farmers are concerned about how to organise themselves into co-operatives to prepare for legalisation. And there is vehement opposition to any sort of licensing because that will set up a guard [a gatekeeping system protecting big companies],”said Clarke.

“The underground market has to be integrated into the formal market. The danger of corporates coming in and taking over is their biggest concern.

“When you think of cannabis travelling from Eastern Cape or Swaziland and being sold in Johannesburg, that’s a supply chain that works. That needs to become more efficient and there needs to be a quality-control mechanism.”

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Zondo may miss chief justice cut

The deputy chief justice is said to top Ramaphosa’s list but his position as head of the state capture commission is seen as too politically fraught

Government fails to act on officials implicated in R3bn SIU...

Half of the 127 managers incriminated in gross procurement corruption have yet to be disciplined

More top stories

Zuma’s rescission application dismissed with costs

Former president Jacob Zuma fails to meet requirements in his application to set aside his contempt order and prison sentence

Plastic pollution in 2019 cost South Africa staggering R885bn

Yet plans are underway to import more plastic waste into the country and it has not signed global plastics treaty

Zondo may miss chief justice cut

The deputy chief justice is said to top Ramaphosa’s list but his position as head of the state capture commission is seen as too politically fraught

Government fails to act on officials implicated in R3bn SIU...

Half of the 127 managers incriminated in gross procurement corruption have yet to be disciplined
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×