While the Botswana police – with the active assistance of a nosey dog called Boots – continue to fill up their exhibition rooms with bales of confiscated marijuana, another SADC nation has been more forward-thinking on this issue.
Politically regressive Lesotho is now Africa’s most progressive on marijuana, having awarded a licence to a South African company called Verve Dynamics to grow, process, and sell cannabis for medicinal purposes. Before western civilization turned the world order upside down, the Koena (Kwena in Setswana) people from whom the Basotho come from, are said to have traded marijuana (matekoane in Sotho) with the San. One historical transaction was the purchase of land for marijuana around 1550. Following the founding of the Lesotho kingdom, marijuana became a staple crop in the 19th century. Like present-day Botswana, Lesotho is a former British colony. Part of the colonial experience included having to obey laws imposed by the master and one such law prohibited the use of marijuana in any form. For virtually all of Africa, a major part of the post-colonial experience involved retaining colonial laws in independent states. The latter explains why African states have outlawed marijuana use.
Botswana has always enforced its marijuana laws rigorously and lately, even more so. Eager to communicate the message that they are reining in drug law offenders, the Botswana Police Service (BPS) officers are on television almost every day to publicise their latest raids. One man ÔÇô Nunu Lesetedi, BPS’ Director Crime Intelligence ÔÇô has become the face of these raids, becoming a permanent fixture on Btv. Another media favourite in the current campaign against drug use and sale is Boots, a police sniffer dog with an equal number of likes and dislikes. Last month, the police nabbed a Molepolole man and woman at a police block in Gamodubu, a small village along the Gaborone-Molepolole road. The pair was found in possession of 175 kilogrammes of marijuana and large sums of cash believed to have been proceedings from the sale of the drug.
The operation against cocaine, heroin and cousin drugs is understandable because they are very harmful. On the other hand, marijuana is medicine ÔÇô that is the context in which the police might as well arrest the Minister of Health and Wellness for being the person ultimately responsible for the dispensing of life-saving drugs at public and private health facilities. The Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko, has vowed to follow the example of Lesotho in the event the opposition collective that he is leader of (the Umbrella for Democratic Change) rises to official power.
Global demand for medical marijuana is very high and adoption of enlightened policy on this matter could bring in lots of money for Africa. Following the granting of its licence, Verve Dynamics put out a statement saying that Lesotho’s expertise in high altitude cultivation made it suitable for the production of large volumes of high quality, low cost marijuana. Word on the street is that Malawi and Mozambique produce really good marijuana that is very popular with users around the world.
While Lesetedi and his men prowl the streets, residential districts and car washes – Boots in tow – hoping to smoke out marijuana dealers and users, the nation which Botswana inherited its marijuana laws from are being much more realistic. In 2015, Sunday Standard editor, Outsa Mokone, was arrested on a criminal charge (sedition) that has been outlawed in the United Kingdom where it originated. Same thing with marijuana policing. A trend developing in Botswana’s former colonial master is of law enforcement officers in various policing districts (Durham, Derbyshire, Dorset and Surrey) downgrading marijuana use as a criminal offence in order to focus on real crime that threatens the safety of members of the public.
Two other SADC nations, Zimbabwe and Malawi, are also considering legalising medical marijuana.