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The Phakisa 'Non-Action' Cannabis Plan! The Presidency’s Bold Initiative Appears to Have Fizzled Out

The Phakisa 'Non-Action' Cannabis Plan! The Presidency’s Bold Initiative Appears to Have Fizzled Out

Almost a year ago the Presidency, with much fanfare, announced the revitalization of cannabis reform through it’s the Phakisa Cannabis and Hemp Action Lab. It held five days of intense consultation with over 100 private sector and community stakeholders to get their input. Then, suddenly, nothing happened.

Brett Hilton-Barber, Cannabiz Africa

27 May 2024 at 06:00:00

Note this report was updated on 27 May 2024.


The Phakisa was big on promises that a new public/private sector partnership would be developed to align cannabis policy. 


A ministerial committee was to have been formalized to bring government departments into line, while a steering committee, including non-government stakeholders was tasked with aligning the interests of the broader cannabis community. 


The Presidency was to assist with budget and a full-time secretariat and technical team to support it. Generally, stakeholders were supportative, although with certain reservations.


READ FGFA cautiously optimistic about The Phakisa but warns of hard work ahead


READ Brett Pollack & Marleen Theunnisen: The Phakisa sounds good, but it all comes down to the execution


As far as Cannabiz Africa is aware none of these measures have been enacted. No budget, no secretariat, no tech team. And of the three workstreams that were set up to create a framework for a “whole plant” approach have not been formalized.  


The lack of momentum around Operation Phakisa was first raised publicly by Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane earlier this year. At the launch of the proposed Coega ‘Cannabis Hub’ near Gqeberha, he bemoaned the lack of pace at a national level and said the province would take the lead in driving South Africa’s cannabis reform initiative.


The proposed JV with Medigrow, which will invest R1 billion in Coega over the next five years, is the only tangible evidence of a public/private sector partnership in the last year and that has had nothing to do with The Phakisa. It’s unclear whether Mabuyane will be around as Premier after the elections, given that he’s facing a scandal over his allegedly fake Fort Hare Univesity academic qualifications.


For the first time in three years, President Ramaphosa did not mention cannabis in his 2024 State of the Nation Address. Perhaps this is symptomatic as to how cannabis has fallen off his radar, even though cannabis has been included in the country’s national investment plan. The thousands of jobs that Ramaphosa said would be created through the rapid development of an industrial cannabis (hemp) strategy, have not materialized.


The major problem is the lack of a commercial framework to regulate the sale of cannabis and related products. The Cannabis for Private Purposes Act, which the President still has to sign into law, outlaws commercial activity: one of its many contradictions is that it allows adults to consume cannabis on private property but forbids them from buying seeds to do so!


The other bigproblem is that the ANC has no policy line on cannabis, which has meant that the courts have dictated legislative change. This enabled the Justice Department to draft legislation that allegedly gave weight to the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling in the absence of any policy direction from the ruling party.

Given that South Africa began researching the hemp industry in the 1990’s, it is a given that cannabis reform has been painstakingly slow and fragmented.


Among the many failures that will be attributed to President Ramaphosa’s ANC government will have been the failure to put sensible cannabis legislation in pace. The lack of clear action has frightened off potential investors and locked the mainstream banks out of supporting the nascent industry. It has also created suspicion amongst cannabis stakeholders as to what government's true intentions are.


Shame!


READ ALL CANNABIZ AFRICA'S COVERAGE OF THE PHAKISA HERE


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