A day for getting high on emotion




I’ve been up since 4.20am.

Clichéd, I know, but in my head it made sense to start commemorating such an auspicious day in South African history — September 18 2018 — at a suitably symbolic time.

It’s been a year since Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, bless his soul, announced the destruction of another building block of colonialism and apartheid — the criminalisation of cannabis — by the Constitutional Court.

Twelve months to the day since the court, in its infinite wisdom, dragged us a step further out of our twisted Calvinist past and legalised cannabis growth and possession for personal and private use. The unanimous decision by the court was, for me and hundreds of thousands like me, a moment of great personal liberation, something not to be forgotten easily.

Granted, we’re still a long way from the point where our existing recreational cannabis industry gets regulated and the medicinal side of things gets going properly, but it’s a beautiful thing not to have to look over my shoulder every time I light a spliff.

In terms of the court’s judgment, the state was given two years to come up with a comprehensive legal framework to regulate cannabis. Fair enough. If I were the head of state I’d be pushing my Cabinet real hard to make sure the paperwork is ready on time. Get the legislation before Parliament as soon as possible. It’s actually irresponsible not to. The state’s coffers are empty. This is a beautiful opportunity to fill them with cannabis tax rands, while regulating an existing underground economy and bringing it into the mainstream. Factor in the billions of rands that will be generated by the pharmaceutical cannabis industry and cannabis tourism — and the exchange rate — and there’s every reason to get things moving. Quickly.

Khawuleza, as it were.

I’m digging Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s approach to cannabis. Mabuyane made it clear this week that the existing illegal ganja industry in the province needs to be taken on board when regulation happens.


There’s a very real threat of the industry being captured by big capital; to the exclusion of the people who have kept it alive during prohibition and who created an economy that the apartheid state couldn’t control; so every move that this government makes to recognise and protect that contribution is pretty cool with me.

I hit the TV remote.

Judge Zondo’s lahnee, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, is on the news, delivering the court’s judgment on the appeal by Freedom of Religion South Africa (ForSA) against the assault conviction of a father who beat up his 13-year-old son for watching porn. ForSA reckons that God believes we own our kids and should be allowed to beat them as much as we want. The court has unanimously disagreed, and has ruled that the Constitution prohibits parents from beating kids, despite what the Bible says.

I’m stoked. Clearly the court views this holy day with the reverence I do, with its choice of September 18 as a date for delivering landmark judgments.

The judgment is pretty damned fine. A reminder that we’re a republic with a Constitution in which, for all its flaws, all human beings, even the most vulnerable, have rights.

I’m sickened by ForSA. Think about it. What kind of human being goes to court to legally enforce the right to commit acts of violence against their own offspring, on the basis that they believe they have a God-given right to do so? That’s like going to court to ask it to bring back apartheid. Slavery.

We see far too often the results of discipline gone wrong in our courts — children beaten to death, scalded, maimed by their parents. In many of the cases, the victims had a history of being beaten. A law preventing the beatings in the first place might have stopped them before they became fatal.

I was lucky to grow up in a home that was a haven from the violence of a country at war with itself and not a place where my body or my life were under threat. I know people who weren’t so fortunate. They’re all damaged, broken men and women who have something missing in them. The violence they faced at home has translated itself into violence against others, or themselves.

Not all parents who discipline their kids are abusers. Not all of us are armed robbers, but armed robbery is a crime. Why then should assaulting a defenceless child not be a crime?

Our children face a horribly violent world. They live under constant threat of being murdered, raped, trafficked. They face the violence of a planet that’s being destroyed; the violence of the state when they rebel against an unfair society they didn’t create.

Children need to be safe from this violence in their homes.

Any move the court, or any other organ of society, can make to make them safer, gets the nod from me, no matter how difficult it may be to implement it.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller and blag artist.

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