Remarks by EC Premier Mabuyane at the EC Cannabis Stakeholder Engagement Session

Program Director
Kings present
Members of the Executive Council
MPs and MPLs
Executive Mayors
Consul General Hon . Goso
HODs present
Invited Guests
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

Thank you for inviting me to this very important stakeholder engagement session that is convened by the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform which is led by umntu onguMama, uMEC Nomakhosazana Meth on this first day of Women’s Month in our country. As many of us would know it was in this month of August in 1956 that more than 20 000 women of our country decided to confront the apartheid regime under their clarion theme of Wathint’ abafazi wathint’ imbokodo. Ndiqinisekile uba apho akhoyo u JG Strijdom akanabhongo lamanina aseMzantsi Africa.

Their courageous act should be seen within the broader context of the National Democratic Revolution of pursuing a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Part of what they fought for was to see the emancipation of women, thus our democratic government continues to affirm women in leadership positions not as a token to comply with prescripts, but as capable human beings who can effect positive change in our society. In any case, women have always and are still providing leadership in our own households. We have no doubt therefore that the current generation of women in government will emulate their forebears and inject some energy and speed in how government works. Wenza lonto uMEC Meth namahlanje ngokusidibanisa apha.

Programme Director, two months ago I tabled the State of the Province Address and highlighted that our 5-year plan directs us to pursue 7 priorities to build the Eastern Cape we want.

For purposes of today I will focus on one priority which has a ripple effect on all other priorities and that is: Economic transformation and job creation. Two days ago Stats SA released the Labour Force Survey and once again painted the dire situation of the unemployment challenge in our province despite a slight decrease of 2.0 percentage points in our unemployment figures. We are work tirelessly to find sustainable solutions to our unemployment challenge.

For instance, in the State of the Province Address, we shared with the people of our province that to achieve economic transformation and job creation we will focus on industrialization , manufacturing, agricultural production and processing. I then directed MEC Meth to place the Cannabis issue on top of her to do list because I felt we have been missing in action to the detriment of our economic growth and job creation prospects.

The positive responses we have received from our citizens on this matter have been overwhelming. I know that among the positive responses we have received, there are people who are excited about the prospects of a booming Cannabis economy for their own personal use agendas. Asikho lapho thina ngxe ntozakuthi, ningasifaki kuleyo.

There is only one agenda for us, and our agenda is to create a thriving, legal cannabis economy in our province to create jobs for our people. This means we want to focus on using cannabis for medicinal use to cure ailments such as Asthma, cancer and we want to use Hemp to manufacture products such as fiber that is used to build aero planes and car components , we want to use it as clothing material, we want to use it to produce bio-fuels and other essentials products that are used globally. Gauteng has gold and other minerals; Western Cape has a thriving Fish Industry here we are endowed naturally with Cannabis. We must play our cards right to formalize this industry to grow our economy particularly in the rural hinterland where fertile land is available for massive cannabis production.

Recently, I read a report by Prohibition Partners, a pro-marijuana consultancy based in the United States, which said by 2023, the South African domestic market for cannabis and related products will be worth around R27 billion. Their sentiments were echoed by CNN International which said the growing cannabis industry in South Africa is on the verge of becoming a multi-billion-dollar industry, as countries around the world have started to legalise cannabis.

Programme Director, we have no reason to doubt these reports because in 2003, Interpol rated South Africa as the fourth-largest cannabis producer in the world, and the Institute for Security Studies reported that most cannabis seized in the UK had South African origins. Without a doubt, this indicates that we have a sleeping giant that needs to be awakened and as a Province we are at an advantage in the entire South Africa to be the main player in this niche industry.

We have gathered you here to tap into your minds so that we can collectively develop a roadmap for the creation of the cannabis economy in our province. The first task we must do is to dissect the cannabis species, and we rely on scientists for this because there is Hemp and there is Cannabis and both of these products are like cousins and have different characteristics and benefits which could trigger our economy and create jobs. We don’t want to choose one cousin over the other and realise later that we made the wrong choice. For instance, at a glance Hemp seems like the product we might want to pursue vigorously as it is used more for industrial purposes, including; clothing and textiles, building materials, plastic and composite materials, paper, cosmetics and food. So we must get our story right on this matter and discuss how we can use both products complementary for the benefit of our economy.

Secondly, it is important that we clear the uncertainty in the regulatory framework for cannabis production. I was happy to hear Finance Minister Tito announcing in his Budget Speech that there will be a change in policy regarding the cannabis industry so that it could become a potential source of revenue.

As a country I think we are not doing justice to ourselves and our citizens who are yearning for jobs when we continuously create a tedious red tape that frustrates economic development. On this Cannabis matter, communal farmers are eager to participate, they have the land but the licensing regime is frustrating them. The small nations like Lesotho are way ahead of us andI are already reaping rewards of the Cannabis industry exporting the product to Canada.

Secondly, we are of the view that the regulatory framework including licensing must encourage inclusivity and beneficiation of communal farmers as primary producers of cannabis in our province.

We don’t want regulations that seek to monopolize the industry and make it the exclusive club of a few. The Constitutional Court ruling in September last year stating that it is not a criminal offence for an adult citizen to use, possess or grow cannabis in private for personal consumption was the first regulatory hurdle we overcame. However, for massive economic production the rules are still unclear. We must overcome this hurdle speedily so that legislation around cultivation can be clear to everyone concerned, particularly the police and communal farmers. Asifuni uxakekisa iLizwe sibone wonke umntu esihla enyuka nengxowa zalomcimbi apha, kuba amapolisa azobamba umntu xa umthetho wokuvelisa ungacaci.

We are eager to deepen social facilitation with our traditional leaders, communities, current producers and business people. We want to seriously caution our communities to be vigilant at this moment, as many investors from foreign countries will come promising milk and honey only to exploit them on this cannabis matter. Bakhona abaziyela kubantu bakuthi ngoku ndithetha nani beshiya urhulumente ngasemva. Bayalibala uba umnyango wokuqala eliZweni ngu rhulumente kuba yonke lento bayenzayo xa iphanzile, yaneziphumo ezibi kuzothiwa urhulumente ebephi.

Parallel to this process, should be a thorough engagement of the support mechanism we are going to invest in the industry particularly for communal farmers. I know for instance in Mbizana there are farmers who need fencing for their fields. These are the kinds of matters we must attend to with communal farmers who interested to venture into this industry.

Programme Director, we have moved at a snail’s pace and missed out on a number of opportunities in this province. Ndiyancela noko lena izikhe ingaphumi ezandleni zethu. We must not let this Cannabis slip out of our hands. We must make use of the knowledge, innovation and research capacity that we have in abundance at Rhodes and Fort Hare University to develop a thriving cannabis industry. Lomcimbi awufuni simpampathe, sikhangele isitya ebumnyameni. Fort Hare and Rhodes University will give us empirical evidence so that we don’t miss the mark with our planning.

We should also get closer to Uniliver Brothers and Johnson and Johnson to learn these multinationals about the extraction of oils from plants with the aim of applying that knowledge to extract oils from cannabis.

Colleagues, we are only left with 11 years to make a significant dent on poverty and inequalities in our country as we committed in the National Development Plan. The Cannabis Industry can give us the long sustainable results quicker because it can create jobs for both semi-skilled and skilled workers. Through it we can also end poverty and improve health profile our people.

This why the first President of America George Washington once remarked that we must “Make the most we can of the hemp seed and sow it everywhere.”

This is why the third President of America Thomas Jefferson added that “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.”

This is why Kenyan Intellectual Professor Lumumba pleaded with us to stop consuming what we don’t produce.

This is why Bob Marley emphasised that the “herb is the healing of a nation; and alcohol is the destruction of a nation.”

These are the words I want all of us to think about as we chart a roadmap for the development of the Cannabis Industry in our Province. When the fruits of this industry start to show, history will record that all of us in this room planted the first seed of this industry.

I am looking forward to the outcome of this session and I plead with you to have clear timelines for the work that needs to implement your decisions. We do not have the luxury of time.

Thank you.

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