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‘WE FEAR ARREST IF WE SPEAK ABOUT DAGGA’

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NDZINGENI – “How can they contribute positively to the legalisation of dagga debate knowing that they will be exposing themselves to the police?”


This is the question which was posed during a residents’ meeting at Ndzingeni yesterday. Residents there want some form of amnesty from prosecution, so that they can openly add their voices to the ongoing debate on dagga legalisation in the country.
Dagga is currently a controlled substance in Eswatini under two laws namely the Opium and Habit-

Forming Drugs Act No. 37 of 1922, as well as the Pharmacy Act of 1927. Amnesty from arrest will mean that dagga growers can openly contribute to discussions regarding the illegal herb without fear of being arrested.


Since the beginning of the legalisation debate of dagga, growers have been divided with some saying it would affect their profits while others claiming that would not be the case.


Magiyane Dlamini, one of the residents of Ndzingeni, had expressed concern that some constituencies were being left out of the debate.
Ndzingeni is one of the prime areas for dagga cultivation due to the availability of water yet it is inaccessible due to police officers.


targeted


Some of the residents also said they were willing to debate the matter but that they feared being targeted by the police. “We may end up attracting police officers,” said a resident.


Ndzingeni Member of Parliament (MP) Lutfo Dlamini also concurred during a meeting that many dagga growers wanted to contribute openly to the ongoing debate on legalisation of dagga but felt intimidated.


The MP said legally, dagga did not exist in Eswatini due to the laws. He questioned how someone could debate about its legalisation without actually seeing what he was talking about.


Lutfo said there should be some amnesty so that people could openly contribute to dagga cultivation without worrying about being arrested.  He said there were views which were currently missing from the debate because people were afraid to comment.


secret


Lutfo openly told residents that it was not a secret that many people were cultivating it. He urged the residents to contribute towards the ongoing dagga debates so as to avoid the licence being granted to non-locals.


Also among the residents during the meeting was a pastor who admitted that in his business, dagga growers played a role. After the pastor’s contribution, some of the residents told him that even the offering was from dagga cultivation.


Meanwhile, The Eswatini Cannabis Association is of the view that the law should be respected even during debates of the legalisation of cannabis.
Saladin Magagula from the association said people should be free to add contributions to the debate but that they should still respect the law.


Magagula said the purpose of the debate was to allow people to speak freely without fear of being arrested.
He said he did not see the necessity of the amnesty but urged that people who opened up should not be intimidated. “If there are cases where people were being victimised because they spoke about dagga, let us know,” said Magagula.

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