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Voice of Reason from Mpondoland: Chief Zwelinkhanyile Diko Tells Parliament: Keep it Simple, Just Classify Local Landraces as Industrial Cannabis

Voice of Reason from Mpondoland: Chief Zwelinkhanyile Diko Tells Parliament: Keep it Simple, Just Classify Local Landraces as Industrial Cannabis

Chief Zwelinkhanyile Diko is the ancestral leader of the Magingqi Community who have been farming cannabis in the Port St Johns area of the Eastern Cape for over 150 years. He has established the Magingqi Community Trust to develop a legit cannabis economy in Mpondoland and leave a legacy for future generations. He knows what he’s talking about. This is his virtual submission to Parliament’s Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee on 23 May 2023 on the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill.

Chief Zwelikhanyile Diko, Ancestral Leader of the Magingqi Community, Mpondoland, Eastern Cape

30 May 2023 at 12:00:00

Committee chair: Greetings to you, Chief Diko.

Thank you Chair for letting me part of this meeting, Greetings to you, Chair, and to the members of this Committee.

I am Chief Zwelinkhanyile Diko from the Eastern Cape from Port St Johns in Mpondoland. I am the founder of the Magingqi Community Trust. It’s my first time, Chair,to present like this, but I’m used to getting together with elders to solve community problems so I hope this is not the last time we meet.

Mr Chair, when we talk about cannabis, eish, there are so many memories I have. I remember the time when we were still boys growing up, we used to mix the inner core of the cannabis sheath with mud to make toy cars, because we lived deep down in a rural area and didn’t have access to get to town very often.

But, Mr Chair, today, we feel isolated as a rural area. We are facing many social and financial difficulties. As the community we have cultivated our local landrace for over 150 years, and we have over 100 000 ha planted, and we are worried it is to be taken from us.

Mr Chair, we have been building a business model for the last five years in the hope that Government will implement measures to unlock the economic value of landrace cannabis. The plan has been developed with my community, elders and advisors and private sector stakeholders to create a legacy that will last for generations to come.

We want to pilot a deep rural industrial cannabis decorticator and agro-processing hub to create wealth for our community from our cannabis, as an agricultural and industrial commodity.

Our community wants to unlock and own the full benefit of the value chain of the cannabis plant, we want to build a world-class manufacturing business.

China has dominated the hemp fibre market which is globally projected to be worth US$26.41 billion by 2026. South African agripreneurs, if regulations permit the inclusion of landrace cannabis and landrace cannabis farmers, have the industrial hemp fibre opportunity to dominate the global market.

Chair, what I’m saying is that instead of importing, we can do things by ourselves and develop our own economy. The Mangingqi Community Trust seeks to maximize the application of the industrial capabilities of our landrace cannabis. We intend using the “whole plant” approach to our cannabis processing. We are pioneering the stimulation or rural economies with a focus on indigenous farming and industrialization.

Together with other communities and similar projects in the greater Mpondoland area, we can create socio-economic upliftment, development and transformation opportunities for our rural areas.

Chair, it is not just us as the community of Mangingqi, it’s other communities. We used to have meetings down there in Mpondoland with traditional leaders and private stakeholders as to how we can use this cannabis to uplift our communities.

The Cannabis Bill falls short of enabling, empowering and uplifting that are posed for the industrial application of thousands of hectares of locally grown, genetically-suited, drought and fungi-tolerant landrace Cannabis sativa.

Chair, why the need to regulate industrial cannabis?

Landrace Cannabis sativa should be included as an approved cultivar, or that certain exemption elements be included for our landrace strains. Why do we aim to regulate an agricultural commodity at a farmer level, not at the processing level?

We recommend that industrial cannabis be defined and regulated by the industrial use, as in textiles, building materials, natural health foods, and not on THC levels.

For generations, landrace cannabis communities have been marginalized, persecuted and abused due to oppressive legislation. Parliament now has the opportunity to bring about transformation to move towards correcting the injustice of the past.

I remember, Chair, seven years ago, there was a helicopter that came and sprayed on our ganja together with our vegetables. Everything was damaged. And then the police arrived and just took everything. But now we need the freedom to move forward. We can’t undo the pain, but we can move forward.

We request Parliament to consider legislation that focuses on rural re-generation, including existing traditional farmers in the value chain without the red tape, maximizing our competitive advantage with resilient genetics, and avoiding further barriers to participate in the economy.

We humbly submit that the implementation of inclusive and efficient legislation and regulations will prevent potential legal challenges, especially where impoverished rural communities do not have the means to do so.

The Mangingqi Community supports the United Nations in sustainable development.

I thank you, Chair.

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