Smokin’, rollin’ and reprimanded: Cannabis, Eskom and Buthelezi


The meeting of parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development to discuss the amendments to the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is going rather swimmingly.

I’ve thus far resisted the temptation to take advantage of my remote participation in the committee meeting to spark one up to celebrate the decision by those who govern us — from a cannabis perspective — to join the 21st century.

The Bill has been before parliament since 2020, where it started its life as a grudging response to the 2018 constitutional court judgment legalising personal and private possession, cultivation and use of the herb.

A shift in the state’s thinking — there’s a huge existing cannabis industry with millions of tax rands for the government to collect — resulted in the amendments, which will allow for the creation of a legal, recreational cannabis industry.

It’s a big moment, one that should have come in the 1990s, and the first real indication that the government actually wants to implement the national cannabis master plan it released last August.

I’ll take that.

Sarel Robbertse, the state legal adviser responsible for drafting the legislation, is presenting a series of amendments to the original draft of the Bill to the committee, on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) equivalency between cannabis flowers — he uses the Afrikaans term koppe — extracts and edibles, to the MPs on the committee.

Robbertse is clearly not familiar with the world he’s been given the job of trying to legalise — and regulate — but he’s done his homework about the subject at hand and is doing a decent job of explaining the difference in effect and potency between dabs, vapes, buds and space muffins.

It’s a hoot, actually, especially from whence we come.

State law advisers have been dreaming up unlawful legislation to restrict cannabis since 1922 — now they’re hammering on about THC, THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), edibles and buds, having been told to clean up the mess they’ve inherited and let the rest of us crack on.

The MPs are being very adult about it all — way more thou shalt, than thou shalt not — even Steve Swart from the African Christian Democratic Party. 

Their major concerns are legit: ensure the integration of the underground industry; keep the bud away from the kids; make sure nobody goes to jail for cannabis in South Africa again.


Perhaps we’ll go the same route as New York is planning, giving first bite at retail licences to people with criminal records for cannabis.

That would be a thing of great beauty — like land restitution, but for stoners.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m wondering how it is that after two weeks of Russian invasion — air strikes, shelling and the like — the Ukranians still have electricity, while here in the Republic, Eskom can’t keep the lights on.

We’re all candles, power banks and gas cookers, just to keep the Monday to Friday afloat. No war — beyond the low intensity one taking place in the governing party — to blame, while the Ukranians still have enough power to make this the most selfied armed conflict in history, Russian tanks or not.

Perhaps that’s why Lesotho hasn’t sought payback for Inkatha Freedom Party president emeritus Mangosuthu Buthelezi sending in the troops in 1988 during his

brief — and only — stint as acting president.

Who would want to invade a country that can’t keep the lights on?

We’re lucky our neighbours are so forgiving — the South African National Defence Force couldn’t defend Makro, so they’re not likely to fare well against an invading army.

I received an angry missive from the man himself — Mangosuthu Buthelezi, not Vladimir Putin — on Wednesday.

The Prince of ka Phindangene is peeved about something I wrote — that’s a first — and has fired off a couple of pages to annotate his anger over being described as our very own Vlad the Invader.

Fair enough.

I’ve been getting love letters from the former KwaZulu chief minister, minister of police and minister of economic affairs from way back — since 1986 or 1987 if I’m not wrong — so it’s heartening to know that Shenge is still reading me — and that he’s as offended as he was, back in the day.

I’m grateful though that, these days, Shenge’s letters aren’t followed by a visit from Siegfried Bhengu just to straighten the recipient out.

Bhengu and associates really spoiled a Stimela concert at the Unit A sportsground for me one Sunday — and brought my weekly commute to and from Ulundi to an abrupt end — so I’ll take Shenge’s post-apartheid epistles as they come.


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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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