Parks Tau and David Makhura were Gauteng’s cannabis champs. However, they’re now out in the political wilderness as a result of power plays within the Gauteng ANC. This is likely to delay the implementation of any kind of provincial cannabis master plan as politicians focus on the ANC leadership tussle and next year’s elections.
Gauteng Agricutlure MEC Parks Tau, the main driver in the province’s cannabis industrialization strategy, has been axed from his position. He fell victim to ANC politics on Friday, 7 October 2022, when new Gauteng premier, Panyaza Lesufi replaced him with Mbali Hlophe who is now MEC for Social Development and Agriculture.
Hlope, a Wits graduate, previously served as Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
Tau follows former Gauteng Premier David Makhura to the door. Makhura and Tau were instrumental in
Gauteng taking an initiative to create special economic zones (SEZ’s) where medical and industrial cannabis could be cultivated, processed and exported. It’s unclear at this stage what the new executives’ approach to cannabis will be, but whatever it is, don’t expect any fast action on the cannabis reform front.
There is no apparent hemp or cannabis champion in the new provincial cabinet, which has less than 18 months to serve before the next elections. Lesufi’s priorities are elsewhere. On appointment he made a bold statement on the controversial e-tolls system, saying he wanted to have them scrapped.
“The mandate of the new MEC for finance is to formulate a new revenue method that will be utilised to take the debt away from Sanral. His first mandate is to move quickly and scrap the e-tolls, we need that new revenue model” IOL quoted him as saying.
In agreement with the National Treasury and in accordance with relevant laws, another mandate was to be the first province to establish a state bank. This state bank would allow people to borrow money and fund township businesses.
“We are going to buy medicine directly. The mandate is to establish a pharmaceutical company. We will buy medicine directly from the holders of those titles” said Lesufi.
He said no hospital or clinic should be without medication. “The finance department is going to manage that.”
He also has promised to fix Gauteng’s crumbling infrastructure and sort out Johannesburg’s water crisis, which means cannabis is going to slip quickly down the “to do” list, despite its job-creating, revenue generating potential.
As it stands, Gauteng’s cannabis strategy is to develop the Vaal Triangle and West Rand as cannabis cultivation and processing hubs and to develop OR Tambo as a cannabis trade exchange. However, the establishment of SEZ’s is a time-consuming process as the framework exempts certain laws that would apply to the rest of the country. For instance, SEZ’s could operate outside the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act which criminalizes the commercial trade in cannabis and related products.
With the ANC leadership contest coming up in December and elections due to be held next year, politicians are going to be more focused on acquiring power than worrying about implementing policy.
Odds are that Gauteng cannabis reform has been set back by at least a year with the ousting of two key individuals who were personally committed to developing a provincial cannabis economy.