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%.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.