During his maiden State of the Province Address (SOPA), Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi tabled elaborate plans to revive the province’s struggling municipalities. But what happened to the province’s grand plans for cannabis production?
This report from Food for Msanzi, first published on 21 February 2023.
Tabling his State of the Province Address (SOPA) at the Johannesburg City Hall on Monday, 20 February 2023, Lesufi cited plans to renovate six hostels in the province, educational facilities, tackle crime, and even finger recognition to unlock RDP houses.
However, there was no mention of cannabis programmes.
National committee member of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa’s (Afasa) cannabis commodity in Gauteng, Katlego Kgopotse, said he is more than disappointed in Lesufi’s speech.
“It was SOPA,” Kgopotse exclaimed. “He was supposed to touch [on] all sectors in detail. For example, in my sector (agriculture), cannabis and hemp industrialisation in the province.”
Both David Makhura, former premier of Gauteng, and Parks Tau, the former MEC for Gauteng economic development and agriculture, mentioned cannabis and hemp industrialisation in several speeches.
Cannabis talk goes quiet
Presenting his SOPA in 2022, Makhura announced plans to establish the country’s first cannabis hub as part of an R45 billion development in the Vaal River area.
Tau said it formed part of his department’s goal to create jobs and boost the economy by processing hemp and cannabis at an industrial scale.
“We are disappointed by the outcomes since [Lesufi] didn’t highlight [a] way forward on cannabis and hemp industrialisation like former premier Makhura and former the Gauteng agriculture MEC did, while promoting skills development, and innovation in the cannabis sector,” Kgopotse said.
As far as Kgopotse is concerned, Lesufi’s speech should have also contained plans to deal with agricultural support.
“He didn’t mention that our cannabis growers are still harassed by police officers, who are not even capacitated about the master plan and cannabis private bill that allows cannabis social clubs to operate,” Kgopotse said.
“He talks about food parcels that do not include the backbone of food security. How do you talk about food parcels but not emphasise farmers’ support in the province?”
According to Kgopotse, young farmers in the province need more support and agricultural skills.
Climate change is also featured in Lesufi’s speech. He mentioned plans to establish a combat-ready disaster management centre with state-of-the-art disaster management equipment.
“It will also house helicopters, drones, and highly skilled personnel that can respond within the shortest possible time.
“Areas prone to disasters such as the Jukskei River in Alexandra township will receive additional support to relocate within the shortest possible time when the disaster centre is in full force,” he said.
The centre is said to focus on climate change and plans are also in the pipeline to invest in green technology and more tree-planting initiatives.
Lesufi also detailed plans to revive the township economy. From the beginning of April, local government intends to use 60% of the R34 billion goods and services budget to support township businesses, Lesufi added.
“We are of the strong view that our townships are our new gold. With new malls and filling stations rapidly going up in our townships, we must ensure these investments benefit our people. We are told that the reasons our spaza shops are struggling are because they don’t have a collective buying power.”
Lesufi said that a financing model had been finalised, which will allow township businesses to have their own warehouses and distribution centres.