Sunday, November 26, 2006

Swazi Gold set to ease growing poverty

A fundamental shift in Swaziland's attitude towards hemp, or dagga, the country's most lucrative cash crop, could be on the horizon.

The government is set to allow small-scale production of hemp to see if it has the potential to become an economically viable crop.

"In hemp we have an alternative to cotton, which has let us down badly over the past few years. It has been because of marijuana that we have found it difficult to talk about hemp, but that is changing, and we are beginning to shape public opinion to its benefits," said Lufto Dlamini, the Swazi Minister for Enterprise and Employment.

"The government is considering a proposal to grow hemp, and a decision will be reached by the end of this month. But I expect it will be given the go-ahead to grow for research purposes, and if that proves successful then we will see," he said.

'People are getting the idea that hemp can be used for purposes other than smoking'
Falling global prices for sugar and cotton, Swaziland's traditional crops, have led to dagga becoming "Swazi Gold" for many of the country's population, most of whom live on less than R7.20 a day.

According to the government's Annual Vulnerability Monitoring Report 2005, cotton prices have fallen steadily over the past few years as a result of international competition and last year's price for cotton was about 33 percent lower than the previous year.

A similar fate has befallen the sugar industry. The European Union plans to slash its price to suppliers in African, Caribbean and Pacific Least Developing Countries by 37 percent from the start of 2007 to bring it in line with the global price, causing the profits of Swazi producers to shrink significantly.

Dr Ben Dlamini, 70, a former education administrator in the Swazi Department of Education, was one of the first people to talk about the potential benefits of hemp production.

"The major emphasis on cannabis in Swaziland has always been on smoking it, but if we were to grow hemp commercially it would solve a lot of problems. It can be used to manufacture fuels, textiles, healthy oils and lotions," he said.

"People are getting the idea that hemp can be used for purposes other than smoking, but the process of understanding this is very slow."

Simon Mavimbela, 21, and Justice Dlamini, 26, have lived all their lives in Hhohho, in the north of the country, the main area for cultivating cannabis, where many people risk growing the illegal plant rather than other cash crops like maize or peanuts.

While both young men insisted that they did not grow cannabis themselves, they admitted that friends and members of their families had grown the plant for generations.

"People here will get around R80 for a 10kg bag of maize when they sell it at the market, but they will get R3 000 for a 10kg bag of cannabis if they can sell it to someone who is going to take it outside of Swaziland," Dlamini explained.

"A person can grow 30 10kg bags in a year up in the hills here, and they use the money to buy cows, furniture, send their children to school.

"We are in a good situation because our fathers grew dagga, so we could afford to go to school, have clothes and other benefits."

According to Dlamini, the only difference between growing cannabis and any other crop is that they have to avoid detection by the police by locating the plantations in inaccessible areas.

"If they are lucky, people from South Africa come and give them the money to start up. They then take the stuff through holes in the boarder fence into South Africa." - Tribune Foreign Correspondent

Monday, November 20, 2006

9 die in W Cape Fires

Nine people died in fires across the province amid sweltering heat and strong winds at the weekend.

At least 60 people were left homeless by the fires.

Blazes in informal settlements were the biggest headache for fire services, Cape Town fire chief Sebastian Martin said on Monday. Cape Argus

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Millions claimed after police burn Africannabis crop

PRETORIA – A businessman from Brits and a Menlo Park company have instituted a damages claim for more than R5,8 million against Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula, after police arrested the man and destroyed his “scientific” dagga crop.

Transvaal Deputy Judge President Jerry Shongwe granted leave to businessman Russel de Beer and the company Leading Prospect Trading to proceed with legal action for unlawful arrest and delictual damages, despite them not giving timeous notice of their claim.

According to court papers, the police raided De Beer’s farm at Kameeldrift, near Brits, in February 2004, arrested him and destroyed his crops, stock and seeds.

This was despite the fact that he had been cultivating cannabis in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council under permits issued by the Health Department since 2002, and had in fact developed a new variety of cannabis for industrial use.

De Beer was in the process of registering intellectual property rights in respect of the new variety locally and internationally, and had negotiated local and international contracts for the supply and cultivation of hemp when his crop was destroyed.

He was prosecuted for unlawful cultivation and dealing in a prohibited substance, but was acquitted.

Leading Prospect Trading, which owned the crop, is claiming R3,6 million damages, and De Beer more than R2,2 million for the injury to his good name and reputation, legal costs, loss of income and intellectual property rights and a loss of profits. Citizen Pretoria News IOL

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dagga growing under noses of police

Hout Bay residents may be forgiven for believing the government has finally heeded calls to legalise dagga.

A flower bed in the middle of a traffic circle, in front of the Hout Bay police station, has provided fertile soil for a couple of marijuana plants that have mysteriously cropped up among the blooming vygies.

The dagga doesn't seem to be too high on the city council's agenda either, as workers continue to water them without noticing.

The plants were discovered by a landscaper, Tim Lundy, while working on the flower bed last week.

"Being a landscaper, I see these growing all over the place. You won't believe how many people grow it. A person must have been smoking weed and thrown down his stompie (in the flower bed). It's a few metres from the police station. And the council also happens to water the island."

Hout Bay police station commander Dirk Smit wouldn't believe it when told about the plants, and insisted the Cape Times was "pulling a prank" on him.

The interview didn't end on a high note. He hung up. Cape Times

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