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Parliamentary Committee Chair Magwanishe Soaks Up the Heat as Tensions Rise During Public Input on Cannabis Bill

Temperature climbs as Committee chair accused of supporting white monopoly capital

Tensions rose in Parliament during the public input session when Marijuana Board of South Africa Stephen Khunou accused the chairman of the chairman of the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee of supporting of white monopoly capital. Chair Bulelani Gratitude Magwanishe chose not to respond, but MP Steve Swart rose quickly to his defence.

Khunou, who’s frustrations began when loadshedding prevented him from making his presentation properly, became increasingly agitated as he continued. He said that “Government had delinquently failed so we live in a state with no law”.

“Dischem and Clicks are dealing in cannabis daily while the police harass the Khoisan King for growing ganja at the Union Buildings. Black people face arrest, our leaders are being killed” he said.  “Our people didn’t benefit from hoodia or rooibos, and SAHPRA just hands out cannabis licenses willy-nilly with no regard for legal considerations such as BEE.”

He said the Committee had dragged its feet in implementing cannabis legislation since it was ordererd to by the Constitutional Court in 2018. He said the President and Parliament had failed the people of South Africa. 

“Government was given time by Zondo, but we don’t have a green paper, we don’t have a white paper, we have nothing, Parliament has done nothing and you, Mr Chair must take some responsibility”.

ACDP’s Steve Swart came to the Committee’s defence.  “Chair, I find the comments against you objectionable and if you want us to raise this formally, please let us know, because this committee stands behind you”.   Magwanishe decided silence was the better option.

Clarke: lawmakers show a complete lack of knowledge about cannabis

Myrtle Clarke of Fields of Green for All rejected the amended Bill outright. “The recent amendments make the Bill even more unconsititutional. It’s all based on perceived harms of the plant and shows a complete lack of knowledge by our lawmakers”.

“Mr Khunou’s indignation is from years of oppression” Clarke told the Committee. “Mr Swart, you must understand that he comes from a community that has been repressed and is getting increasingly frustrated”.

Swart said later: “singling out the chairperson was not fair, but I appreciate the frustration from where it was coming”.

Magwanishe: ‘Don’t put words in my mouth’

Lawyer Paul-Michael Keichel, of Cullinan and Associates, also had it in for Magwanishe, who had earlier said the Government wanted cannabis legislation passed this year. 

“Parliament should listen to the people. Does Parliament think it’s better than the people to say that it wants the law passed this year come hell or high water?  You should take heed of the submissions that have been made and get it right this time around.”

Magwanishe responded: “People must not put words in my mouth. I said it is our intention to pass the bill into law this year, but I didn’t say ‘come what may’”.

Keichel apologized, saying he had not meant to put words in the chairman’s mouth and said those assembled all agreed that the Bill must pass constitutional muster before any attempt was made to put it into law.

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