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Global North setting the Cannabis agenda to the detriment of their former colonies.

Filming in Cape Town recently, Richard Quest (the CNN talking head) questioned why we South Africans are so tolerant of ‘loadshedding’ – our ANC government’s euphemism for Power cuts induced by their inability to supply electricity as required by our rapidly growing nation. This question is only valid if we consider the particular nuances of the South African energy paradigm. In a segment weirdly entitled ‘Quest’s Profitable moment’ he goes on to opine that due to our national propensity to make do with the resources we have – ‘a Boer maak a plan’ – we are happy to grin and bear it. Putting aside the fact that a Boer (Afrikaans for farmer) is often associated with systematised racial oppression ala Apartheid and therefore a rather tone-deaf analogy, I find Quest’s well-meaning but facile take on matters not helpful. Perhaps if the colonisers had focused on building a nation rather than extracting our wealth, we might not have had to make do with so little – it’s funny what a brutal interest Britain took in South Africa after Diamonds and Gold were discovered here.

I work in the burgeoning South African cannabis industry, and despite frequent reminders to remain optimistic, it is uncanny how the international cannabis industry is being set up to favour the strengths of the Global North, whilst dismissing the Heritage, Intellectual Property and Genetics that sets cannabis apart in places like South Africa. Imposing strict EU-GMP certification on Cannabis originating out of Africa excludes all but the most well-resourced Cannabis farmers from the value chain, whilst adding very little value in the process. Particularly galling is the fact that prohibition was driven by the same entities that now get to dictate the terms of reference for the global industry. It is a well-established fact that prohibition had a markedly more deleterious effect on Africa, Asia and South America (and darker-hued people in the North) than it did on anyone else. The quasi-militaristic ‘War on Drugs’ conceived by another Dick – this time Nixon – weaponised prohibition precisely to oppress, marginalise and dehumanise anyone who wasn’t pale and male – sound familiar?

In South Africa more than 900 000 small-scale cannabis farmers (mostly black, mostly women) continue to be harassed, arrested and deliberately excluded from the cannabis value chain built off the back of their historic labours. In some weird ‘Kafka-esque’ twist our predominantly Black government continues to enforce these obviously racist laws in a spectacularly spineless concession to ‘our International Obligations’ –  tell that to the people of Ukraine as our self-same government ignores their humanitarian plight at the hands of Vlad-the-Crazy! London is built on the broken dreams of African slaves and cheap indentured labour. As a British Colony for around a hundred years, South Africa was raped and pillaged beyond all decency and yet we have to explain our torpor to the mouthpiece of the oppressor – the sheer gall of it is stupendous. I urge you to dig a little deeper, to understand the SA zeitgeist – if such a thing exists. We are a fractured and hurting nation, but we are nothing if not resilient! Save your platitudes and potted opinions for the mouth breathers that live off pithy sound bites and leave the real work of undoing colonial pillage to the people you left behind. The English exported religion, racism, slavery and colonialism to this country – if we could only return it with interest!

Our government learned to steal, lie and not give an Eff about the common man from the best – our European overlords – here’s looking at you Holland, France and the rest of the sclerotic European ‘powers’ fighting for relevance in the 21st century. And if I may borrow a phrase from your bible – ‘Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?’ We appreciate the lens you shine on us with your all-seeing eye Richard, but perhaps you could look a little closer next time? Africa is rising, despite our challenges – after all aren’t they calling this Africa’s century? The Brits get a little tetchy when words like reparations are mentioned – ever tried to get a Pom to buy a round? – but real reconciliation will start when we all stop and truly listen to what our oppressed brethren want. It is not revenge, but respect. It is not hatred but love. So please can we whiteys stop giving megaphones to the likes of Trump, Farage and their odious ilk and work together to empower our brothers, sisters and children alike – especially if they don’t look like us? Doing the right thing is never wrong, no matter who tries to convince us otherwise. South Africa is a nation that will continue to defy the odds because our people are incredible. Our politicians are truly shit, but that is a universal truth these days. We will prosper despite them, not because of them. If Trevor Noah, Elon Musk, Charlize Theron and Miriam Makeba came from our broken past, what does the future hold in store in terms of our human capital? If you want a taste of what’s to come think Siya Kolisi, Sho Majozi and The Kiffness. Despite our challenges – perhaps because of them – we shall rise Mzansi, Rise! Richard, if you want to help solve problems like loadshedding, can we discuss equitable laws, decent access to markets and a few trifling trinkets like the Cullinan Diamond – that would be groovy?

 

George Joubert                                                                                                             10/03/23