By Jerry Chifamba
Cape Town — On April 22, the Black Farmers Association of South Africa (BFASA) is protesting against the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA)’s role in the monopolization of the Cannabis Industry. This is not the first time the organisation has protested against the health regulatory body. In October 2020 the pro-cannabis marchers took to the street as they marched to SAHPRA offices in Arcadia, Pretoria, with the big emphasis on “putting an end to SAHPRA’s corruption in the Cannabis industry”.
Now six months later, they are demanding the resignation of Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, along with a shut down of the SAHPRA offices. BFASA, whose vision is to ensure that there is transformation in the agriculture and farming sectors and that there is equality irrespective of race, says Health Minister Zweli Mkhize must step down because, according to SAHPRA, he is to blame for the monopolization of the cannabis industry in South Africa.
Dr Lennox Xolile Mtshagi, President of The Black Farmers Association, spoke to allAfrica’s Jerry Chifamba about his organisation’s demands.
Who does your organisation represent, and how long have you been engaging with SAHPRA?
We represent black farmers, Rastafarians, rural people, and traditional leaders.
We have been engaging SAHPRA since 2020 trying to find amicable ways to give licenses for those that are disadvantaged and those that are the custodians of cannabis.
We found out that SAHPRA is using an Apartheid Act of 1965 that excludes black people from participating in the cannabis business. That is why today all licenses went to white people and white foreigners. BEE wasn’t compulsory due to the Apartheid Act that SAHPRA is working on.
What changes did you propose to SAHPRA?
We asked SAHPRA to accommodate black people and also to revoke all licenses that have been issued under the Apartheid Act as our preamble of the (South African) Constitution is clear that those that were disadvantaged should be prioritized in all government business. That’s why BEE is compulsory to all government business. So because SAHPRA doesn’t comply with the constitution, we decided to march on April 22nd and shut down SAHPRA because SAHPRA cannot take us back to Apartheid. They cannot do that.
Who at SAHPRA are you referring to?
The Chairperson of SAHPRA, Professor Helen Rees, CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela and other board members said on record when we asked them why they are using an Apartheid Act to issue licenses to white people. That’s when they said they are working under the instruction of the honorable Dr Zweli Mkhize to give licenses to white people not to black people. We’ve got that on record, hence we said we are not leaving until the minister arrives to come and clear his side of the story.
What if the minister has no role in what you claim SAHPRA said?
If the minister is not part of what SAHPRA said he must open a case against them. The allegations come from the chairperson of SAHPRA, Professor Helen Rees, CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela and other board members. (Read the story for the SAHPRA’s official response)
What do you expect to have achieved by the protest?
After the march, we’re expecting the minister or the president to revoke all the licenses that were issued under the Apartheid Act of 1965 to white people and those that were involved, including the entire board of SAHPRA, should be charged criminally for being constitution delinquents. Everyone in South Africa is guided by the Constitution. You cannot come with an Apartheid act that empowers white people whereas there’s a BEE Act that compels you to act accordingly.
So tomorrow our march is going forward. We want to hear from the minister and the president that all licenses that were issued under that Act are revoked with immediate effect and the culprits are facing jail time. They must strip all their credentials because they can’t bring back apartheid in South Africa.
What if they tell you to take your criminal allegations to the police?
If they say we must open a case, we will be opening a case tomorrow. We will walk from the march towards the police station.