Cremation, crime and cannabis


It’s hardly 9am, but I’m already feeling drained. Depleted. As if I haven’t slept properly in days.

It’s been a rough week. Unsettled. I’ve been battling to focus. Concentrate.

This time a year ago, I was in Belfast cremating my old man, Gerald. That was rougher.

The passage of 12 months has helped a bit. I’ve been able to rationalise Gerald’s death. Accept it.

Now I can think about him without crying. Occasionally. Laugh when I remember something he said, or did. Most of the time, just one thought about Gerald and the water works start. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to laugh every time I think of him.


We didn’t bury the old man’s ashes. Gerald wanted to be buried along with my mom, Winnie. She’s still alive and kicking. Gerald reckoned she had been keeping him waiting since they met in 1964, so he didn’t mind waiting in the cupboard of their spare bedroom for another couple of years till she can join him.


That was Gerald.


I’ve spent most of the week trying to keep myself occupied and productive, keep my mind off the old man.

A fair part was spent around Tongaat Hulett, where time appears to be running out for the executives who allegedly inflated the company’s profits by what was believed to be R4.5-billion to get themselves nice performance bonuses. It turns out the cooking of the books actually amounted to R11.8-billion, according to a forensic audit instituted by the company’s new bosses. The new lahnees have handed the report over to the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which is currently deciding whether to prosecute. They are also getting ready to sue for the millions the company’s former chief executive officer and his bras got paid on the basis of the inflated figures.

Fair deal.

People need to go to jail for what happened at Tongaat Hulett.

Last year, the company issued retrenchment notices to 5000 people. Another 3000 will have to go before the company finishes cutting staff and selling off its farms to raise the more than R8-billion it needs to pay its creditors by March next year.


Jailing those responsible for the company’s collapse won’t bring back any jobs, but it needs to happen.

The rest of the week was taken up with the cannabis Bill. Not my cannabis bill which is, as always, pretty hefty, but The Cannabis Bill, or The Regulation of Cannabis Bill, if one is to be precise.

After the Constitutional Court declared the prohibition of private cannabis cultivation, possession and consumption as unconstitutional in 2018, the state had to come up with a new law to regulate how much cannabis the individual could grow or possess for personal use.

Commercial cultivation and sale would remain illegal, for either medicinal or recreational purposes, until the government takes a policy decision as to which model of legalisation to adopt further down the line.

Fair enough. Regulation is necessary.

At present the police are operating in terms of South African Police Service Standing Order 22/01/19, which allows them to decide what is or isn’t a reasonable amount of cannabis for the individual to possess for personal consumption. It’s a little arbitrary, and open to abuse, creating a lovely little niche industry for predators in the police force, so some clarity on legal stash size would be welcome.

In about May the department of justice began a process of drafting the Bill, which it put out to the NPA and the department of health for comment. Next it goes to Cabinet for approval before going to Parliament and being put out for public comment.

I got a copy last week. It’s not bad, from a consumer’s perspective, but it doesn’t do anything more than meet the requirements of the Constitutional Court.

It does nothing to address the issue of commercial cannabis and the hundreds of millions of tax rands the state continues to deprive itself of by merely responding to the court’s judgment and failing to push ahead.

Another opportunity deferred. Lost.

The mobile goes. It’s a contact of mine at Tongaat Hulett.

The company has issued another 500 workers at its Darnall mill, established a century ago, with section 189 notices, because it can no longer afford to run the facility.


Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

Related stories


Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories


Joel Embiid gets the nod, and though Curry has performed well lately, there are doubts that the Warriors will prevail

Beyond the digital cold war: Technology and the future of...

Several African governments have published plans to establish smart cities, including Cairo, Johannesburg, Kigali and Nairobi. They require the most advanced technologies available

Funding a vaccine will tax our limits

VAT should not be hiked, but a once-off levy on mineral resources or a solidarity tax seems likely

‘SA can’t leave its shift to a low-carbon future to...

Innovation and creativity is crucial to guide financing, say experts

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…