With cannabis legalisation feeling imminent in South Africa, it appears that there are already attempts by some of the president’s keepers to stake their claim. Which begs the question, has cannabis already been captured?
Earlier this year I wrote about the legal secret cannabis farm operating in KwaZulu Natal, but had no idea at the time that I was only scratching the surface of something that goes much deeper than I could have ever imagined. If you have not read the sensation that is The President’s Keepers I highly recommend that you do. Without going into great length or spoiling the bestselling expose for you, there is a startling allegation in its contents worth highlighting. This is the claim that some local tobacco companies are neck deep in crippling SARS (South African Revenue Service) and the capture of president Jacob Zuma along with various other leading ANC leaders.
The sweet and short of it is that a web of bribes and tax evasion, amounting in the hundreds of millions if not billions of Rand, by these tobacco companies and politicians has kamikaze’ed governments ability to investigate or prosecute these now untouchables. Prominent names include the usual suspects such as the Guptas and Zumas, but it was the names of Yusuf Kajee and Paul de Robillard as alleged tobacco smugglers and key role players in State Capture that started to raise questions among cannabis legalisation activists.
I’ll be completely honest, it worries me how close to the bone this may all cut. So I’m going to stick to what is public information and what we do know rather than speculate.
The license holder for the legal research grow in KZN is House of Hemp, a local company that has for over a decade participated in various arguably successful or unsuccessful projects under this license. “On July 18, 2017, House of Hemp sold a 60% interest to Canadian venture capital firm LGC, and its strategic partner in Africa, AfriAg. With the additional resources of this partnership, we’ll be focusing on increasing our growing footprint at Dube, so as to produce export-quantities of high-grade medical cannabis.”
While the role of LGC seems somewhat ambiguous it is AfriAg that is worth delving into. “… AfriAg (Pty) Ltd also entered exciting growth markets of the legalised medical cannabis through its new strategic alliance with Canadian listed LGC Capital Limited (TSXV:LG) tocreate a new 50/50 Joint Venture to grow and distribute medical cannabis products in the southern African region for export to regulated and certified end users around the world”.
Some light Googling easily concludes that Paul da Robillard is the owner of AfriAg (Pty) Ltd and that there are blogs rife with Yusuf Kajee’s involvement with the company. So non of this is any real secret nor displays nefarious intents.
What is does mean though is that the politically connected are already five steps ahead of those wanting to be a part of the pending legal medical, industrial and recreational cannabis markets. That tobacco company owners would also want to play a part in this market is only logical as they have the capital, expertise, infrastructure and supply-chains to quickly meet demand for legal products. What is concerning though is that the players appear to be those who are embroiled in State Capture.
It will take a great deal of due diligence and strict enforcement of regulations to prevent cannabis becoming another bribe and corruption riddled industry. More so a strong political appetite will be needed in order to shun or eject corrupt government individuals before cannabis is also captured by those with deep pockets and the president’s ear.