In a historic gathering in Port St. Johns in the Eastern Cape, the indigenous cannabis growers of Mpondoland came together to elect its leadership and set forth resolutions aimed at building a globally competitive cannabis industry.
The meeting at the Eluxolweni hall saw the representation of 20 growers per local municipality across the Mpondoland cannabis belt which makes a significant contribution to households in the region. The plant is extensively cultivated along the coastal belt.
Themed “Nothing about us without us,” the event saw participation from traditional leaders from western and eastern Mpondoland, as well as Garth Strachan, technical consultant in the project manager’s office of the Presidency; Dr Sunshine Blouw, cannabis development specialist at the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency and Port St. John’s mayor, Nomvuzo Cingo.
Also in attendance were representatives from two districts and eight local municipalities within the Mpondoland cannabis belt.
The belt boasts indigenous genetic strains of immense value, serving as raw material for both medicinal and industrial products with astonishing pharmaceutical properties. Organisers tell Food For Mzansi the event witnessed the birth of an organised chamber, reflecting unity and purpose among the cannabis community.
This development marks the end of years of struggle against prohibition, leading toward a future brimming with possibilities. Malombo Dlamini from the Alfred Nzo district was elected as chairperson while Abednigo Hlomza and Snoux Poswa, both from the O.R Tambo district, were elected as deputy chairperson and secretary, respectively.
Inclusion of women growers
While the elected structure received unanimous support, traditional leaders expressed concern about the exclusion of women growers from the executive and urged urgent corrective action. Chief Luthando Dinwayo emphasised the need for the repeal and expungement of criminal records for individuals prosecuted for cannabis-related activities.
The legal framework concerning the cultivation, trade, and use of cannabis in South Africa is undergoing significant reform, starting with the Private Use Cannabis Bill and the Drugs Act. However, the government is urged to ensure that the estimated R28 billion industry benefits indigenous citizens immediately, rather than subjecting them unjustly to laws that criminalise their activities.
In his closing remarks, Prince Leslie Sigcau, representing the Eastern Pondoland Kingship delegation, stressed the formation of an industrial development committee.
This committee aims to ensure the prioritisation of a sustainable and profitable cannabis industry within the cannabis belt, fostering both business and job opportunities.
Building a sustainable cannabis industry
Sigcau said this historic moment stands as a victory for the AmaMpondo people, who, on 10 October 2020, rejected the Cannabis for Private Use Bill. Their rejection was grounded in the belief that the bill did not adequately protect their people’s human rights and continued to suppress the trade of cannabis by indigenous farmers and traders.
Instead, they sought a future where their industry was not dominated solely by wealthy foreign entities, but one where the benefits of this burgeoning industry would be shared equitably among their own community.
Sigcau says the founding summit of the Mpondoland cannabis belt marks the beginning of a new chapter, heralding a future where indigenous knowledge, traditions, and economic growth walk hand-in-hand, setting a precedent for sustainable cannabis industries globally.
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