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BDP MPs finally approve use of UDC hyped hemp

After persistently resisting the wave of industrial hemp, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has somersaulted on its earlier conservative stand and succumbed to the pressure of growing cannabis to stimulate the economy.

Details emerging from the ruling party caucus meeting this week paints a portrait of a party ashamed of its initial viewpoint and ready to liberalise investing in the forbidden plant.  A resolution on hemp follows a statement by Minister of Agriculture Development and Food Security Dr Edwin Dikoloti in Parliament, who said that the growing of Industrial Hemp also known as Cannabis is prohibited and is punishable by law in Botswana.

Dikoloti’s stance corroborated previous stance adopted by leading BDP members including Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, who on many occasions disapproved industrial hemp. Tuesday this week, the party assembled for their weekly routine meeting and industrial hemp dominated the agenda. The party legislators wanted to know why the party is insisting that hemp is not allowed and challenged Dikoloti to provide for that law which he failed to.

Informants told this publication that the party cartwheeled and agreed that industrial hemp should be allowed in Botswana as it has more economical benefits which will also assist the party achieve its election promises of growing the economy and creating jobs. In discussing this, BDP wants to be armed with answers when a motion or question is moved in Parliament regarding industrial hemp. For a long time, BDP has been reluctant to research more about hemp, but tenacity from the opposition forced the BDP to tone down and change stance.

Ahead of the highly contested 2019 general elections, BDP opposed the use of industrial hemp, a position which was at variance with that of the main opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which anchored its job promises on industrial hemp industrialisation. From the Tuesday meeting chaired by Tsogwane, the BDP legislators agreed that industrial hemp be allowed as there is no law prohibiting it.

“We have a number of products that contain hemp and are sold in our shops. So the argument is, if we have these kind of commodities why is it difficult to allow for industrial hemp?” one legislator who attended the meeting shared with this publication. In terms of the law, Dikoloti has been vehement that; “Industrial hemp is clearly prohibited in Botswana in accordance with First Schedule of the Planet Protection Act of 2007, Cap 35:02, and also according to the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 2018, Part II Section 6 (1).”  

He continued; “Any person who, without lawful authority, cultivates any plant which can be used or consumed as a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, or form which a narcotic drug or narcotic substance can be extracted, commits and offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P500, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years or to both”. However BDP unanimously agree with Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse, that there are no laws or rules which regulate or specifically prohibit the growing of Industrial Hemp or use of its products in Botswana.

 “With all the products containing hemp on the shelves, we agreed that clearly it is not prohibited,” added a legislator.  “Now whoever wants to start industrial hemp will have to apply to get the permission. The idea is the applicants should show a value chain in the production. Hemp permission will only be granted for those who will yield products with medicinal value, nothing else,” shared another BDP MP.

BDP MP, John Thiite of Ghanzi North who was not present at the meeting had this to say: “From my own research I would allow it for industrialisation purposes. Industrial hemp has proved that it can stimulate the economy by creating employment and that’s what we need.” Prior to last year’s elections Leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko strongly believed that production of industrial hemp could curb unemployment. “Hemp offers a yield of about P13.37 per plant and up to 12 500 000 plants per 5000 acres,” he says.

That gives P167 125 000 per 5000 acres. Hemp growers can employ 10 000 people to maintain a 10 000 hectare farm,” he revealed. He reiterated the need for Botswana to legalise industrial hemp for commercial purposes due to its economic value. UDC leader, Duma Boko has on several occasions said Botswana is missing out big in the industrial hemp wave as it is unlocking economic growth in some of the countries that have legalised it on the African continent.

Industrial hemp is legalized in 13 nations in Africa, with five of them coming from the SADC region- Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa legalizing marijuana too. The New Frontier Data 2019 report, the Africa Regional Hemp and Cannabis Report: 2019 Industry Outlook, states that 50 countries in the world have legalized hemp production. Report shows that some of the countries legalised hemp for medicinal purposes whilst others such as Mexico, Canada and Georgia to mention but a few, legalised it for recreational purposes.

More interestingly, the report uncovered that one- third of worldwide cannabis users stay in Africa, noting that Africa’s largest cannabis markets are those with the largest populations. Report further suggests that since Lesotho became the first African nation to legalize medical cannabis in 2017, Africa cannabis use rate has been nearly twice global average use rate of 6%.

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Free at last: Ian Kirby Speaks Out

6th December 2021
Justice Ian Kirby

The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.

WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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Civil society could rescue Botswana’s flawed democracy’ 

6th December 2021
Parliament

Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed.  This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.

In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’  The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.

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Bangwato at loggerheads over Moshupa trip

6th December 2021

Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama). 

Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.

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