It has become a common sight around Gaborone to see people puffing on dagga joints at bars and nightclubs.
In Gabane, a village situated a few kilometres outside Gaborone, young men and women can be seen everyday smoking it openly at bars and shebeens.
Who can be blamed for wanting to try out a plant that has been glorified so much? Reggae legend Bob Marley called it ‘the healing of a nation ÔÇô the holy herb that grows from creation.’
Bakgatla paramount chief Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela recently suggested that public servants, cabinet ministers, pastors and even the attorney general, should smoke dagga to help them make better decisions.
The Rasta community, prominent worldwide for openly smoking and preaching for it to be legalised, says that dagga connects them to their creator. They claim to smoke it for spiritual purposes.
In America, a movie was released, starring rappers Redman and Method, which tells a story about two college students who pass with flying colours and get admitted to the esteemed Harvard University after smoking some magical ganja.
The plant is commonly known by various names, both English and vernacular ÔÇôdagga, motokwane, herb, molemo wa bakgatla, joint, zolo, dope, weed, majaja, ganja, mbanje, spliff, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis, motsoko wa marasta, and so on.
Dagga is illegal in Botswana as well as in most parts of the world but is loved by many, from the rich and the famous to the poor and the homeless. This natural plant is one of the most generally abused drugs in Botswana, alcohol being the most common.
A random survey conducted around Gaborone revealed that over 80 percent of the people interviewed have experimented with dagga while all of them know someone and have friends who smoke or have smoked before. Most of the smokers interviewed for this article claim there is nothing wrong with smoking ganja, “because it is not a drug but a natural plant hence is not as dangerous as smoking tobacco which is legal”.
Kago Majela*, 35, a lecturer at a local college, says he has been smoking weed for almost 20 years now and does not see anything wrong with that.
“I love my smoke which I regard as an antidepressant because it lifts me up when I am feeling low,” said Majela. “I have never suffered from any diseases. Instead ganja helps soothe minor pains and also increases my appetite, which is good because a man needs to eat good to keep fit.”
According to Majela, dagga is not addictive but rather habit forming.
“I constantly go on smoke breaks which sometimes last for months but I never suffer any withdrawal symptoms.”
He says he smokes a joint before going to work in the morning, then another when he gets home in the evening, but never gets any cravings in between.
The prices are relatively low, depending on the quality, and it is easily available. In Botswana dagga is sold in coin bags, also known as bankies, matchboxes, newspapers or wrapped in foils known as silver balls. A ready rolled dagga cigarette referred to as RM costs 5 pula.
A 60-year-old man was recently arrested for growing it in his backyard garden. Even school going children can afford and have easy access to buying it as it is mostly sold on street corners, shebeens and even combi ranks.
A Form Three student at a local junior secondary school revealed how his schoolmates always go to the bush after school to smoke.
In neighbouring South Africa, a couple is currently embroiled with the constitutional courts of law in a bid to fight for the decriminalization of dagga in that country. Dubbed the ‘dagga couple’, Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke have taken it upon themselves to fight for the legalization of marijuana in South Africa, which they claim is the second highest dagga smoking country in the world.
While dagga may possess some healing powers, some of the known effects of smoking it include brain damage, amnesia, sterility, lung deceases, emotional problems, lowered libido, and overall deterioration in health. Users can be identified through bloodshot or droopy eyes, continued thirst and hunger, mood swings, talkativeness and uncontrolled laughing or giggling.