After more than 40 years on the fringe of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, dagga finally stepped out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
Usually whispered about in hushed tones and smoked in dark corners, pot took centre stage as red-eyed stoners, bluerinse pensioners and academics scrambled to find out more about weed at talks on decriminalisation and the medicinal benefits of the plant.
Even South Africa’s high-profile dagga couple, Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, made the long haul to festival city, where they smoked high-quality cannabis oil from an odourless vaporizer at a busy High Street coffee shop.
“This is the best thing ever,” Stobbs explained as he loaded an oil drop into the electronic vaporizer.
Similar to e-cigarettes, vaporizers have been selling like hot cakes at the festival.
After smoking dagga their entire lives, Stobbs and Clarke became the South African poster couple of legalisation after they were busted at their house in 2010 with more than 115 grams of dagga.
Instead of rolling over and pleading guilty, the couple did what thousands before had only dreamt of and mounted a legal challenge, claiming the laws that banned the plant were a relic of apartheid.
Supported by dagga smokers, the couple has raised hundreds of thousands of rands through crowd funding to fly in world experts to testify at the case.
According to the couple, they are not just campaigning for the right for over-18s to be allowed to smoke pot “responsibly”, they are also doing it for people to use and grow for cultural, religious and medical reasons.
“We don’t want to compartmentalise it. South Africans should be able to use dagga however they like.”
At a Think!Fest talk titled “Weeding out legislative hypocrisy”, the couple’s lawyer, Paul-Michael Keichel, from top legal firm Schindlers, said flying out expert witnesses was vital to properly deal with the issue.
He said opinions on dagga ranged from “Devil cabbage” that will cause the sky to fall on your head to others that tout it as a miracle cure-all.
According to Keichel, rational thought and consistent lawmaking were needed to properly tackle what was fundamentally a human rights issue.
He said research had revealed dagga use was less harmful than legal fixes like tobacco and alcohol, and that years of prohibition had done little to stem the tide of people using it and getting busted.
During another well-attended Think!Fest panel discussion entitled “Decriminalising Dagga”, medical experts and dagga users discussed the pros and cons of using the weed.
Fort England Psychiatric Hospital senior clinical psychologist Dr Scott Wood said although dagga was the first illegal drug most youth experimented with, it was usually preceded by trying cigarettes.
He said 80% of people in rehab for substance abuse had started out smoking dagga.
Although research did raise concerns over how early use affected brain development in younger smokers, Wood conceded that little research had been done on the health benefits of dagga.
He said unlike other substances, dagga stayed in a person’s system for a month or more and regular users developed a tolerance that required using more to get high.
“The problem with research is that it can be manipulated by the people doing it to come up with the outcomes they want,” Wood said.
Anther panellist, Dr Celia Jameson, said the use of dagga in palliative care of terminally ill people had helped improve their quality of life during their final days.
“It can be highly successful, but there is a downside. It is a very controversial field,” she said.
During a talk at the popular 37 on New nightclub, the dagga couple laid out their struggles to light up without getting busted.
Emboldened by the couple’s struggle, many in the audience – from all walks of life – lit up ganja spliffs or passed round vaporizers as they listened intently.
CIVILIAN deaths at the hands of police are in the spotlight in South Africa – not just in the US where protests took place this week.
In one year there were 396 deaths as a result of South African police action and 244 deaths in custody‚ the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said in its annual report for 2014/15.
The police watchdog is obligated to investigate deaths in police custody or as a result of police action‚ as well as complaints of torture‚ assault and firearm discharge.
A total of 5 879 cases were reported to IPID‚ of which 3 711 were assault cases and 940 were complaints about the use of official firearms.
The shooting of robbery suspect Khulekani Mpanza by police made national headlines in October last year. He had dropped his gun and was lying down when he was shot.
An investigation by The Guardian of police shootings in the US revealed that in the first 24 days of last year they fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales‚ combined‚ over the past 24 years.
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Two drug-related successes were achieved under Operation Lockdown in Port Elizabeth’s Northern Areas‚ police said on Saturday.
Members of the Gang Intervention Team‚ stopped a vehicle on one of the city’s main roads and arrested two men and confiscated 500 Mandrax tablets.
In addition‚ later that day a 63-year-old man was arrested by members of the SAPS National Intervention Unit for dealing in dagga.
In both cases the accused will appear in court on Monday.
“Help bring safety and peace to PE’s Northern Areas by reporting criminal activity including drug dealing and possession of unlicensed firearms to 0860010111‚” police said.
In Gugulethu in the Western Cape‚ five suspects were arrested for house robbery and a vehicle highjacked in Durbanville last week was recovered.
One suspect was arrested in Khayelitsha for the possession of illegal ammunition and in Gugulethu drugs were confiscated during the search of a hostel‚ police said.
The circumstances surrounding the discovery of the drugs are still under investigation. These arrested suspects are also due to appear in court on Monday.
For the full story read The Herald tomorrow, or get the complete newspaper, including comics, classifieds, crosswords and back editions in our e-Edition.
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On the front page of the Sunday Times:
SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng overruled his staff to push through a R167-million contract with a production company co-owned by President Jacob Zuma’s daughter Gugu Zuma-Ncube‚ the newspaper reported.
The chief operating officer reversed a recommendation by a review panel of six members‚ who had decided not to renew the popular Uzalo drama series for a second season‚ it said.
Their concerns were that there was no proper business plan‚ the budget was “about 10 times that of a 13-part series” and there had been problems during the show’s first season with “writing‚ aesthetics and delivery‚ Sunday Times reported
Competitor makes firm offer to shareholders of Uitenhage-based Sovereign Foods
Shareholders in South Africa’s fourth-largest poultry business, JSE-listed and Nelson Mandela Bay-based Sovereign Foods, are set to consider a buyout by competitor Country Bird Holdings (CBH) this month.
CBH, which already holds a 9.75% stake in Sovereign, announced its offer price on Wednesday with a conditional minimum acceptance of 50% plus one or preferably a 100% buyout of Sovereign shares.
Shareholders in Uitenhage-based Sovereign, which listed its share price at R7.15 on its website yesterday, have been offered a premium 900c (R9) per share.
But the deal is primarily conditional on CBH acquiring the minimum of Sovereign’s issued shares and that Sovereign does not implement an empowerment agreement proposed by the company.
A meeting to address the empowerment deal at Sovereign is scheduled to take place on July 25.
CBH, which is based in Johannesburg, is a relatively new, unlisted company.
It has grown to become the country’s third-largest poultry business since it was established in 2005.
It seeks to purchase all Sovereign shares currently not owned by CBH or its partners and says that should it acquire 100% of Sovereign’s shares, it intends applying to have Sovereign delisted from the stock exchange.
This is not the first time that CBH – whose offer values Sovereign at around R685-million – has made a bid for a majority of Sovereign’s shares since CBH acquired its first stake in the company in 2009.
According to CBH, the offer is beneficial to Sovereign shareholders because, among other reasons, the offer price represents premiums of 25.4% and 21.3% to the current share price and the 30-day volume weighted average price as at close of business on July 5.
CBH stated that the “fair value” of Sovereign shares, as determined by an independent expert appointed by Sovereign, was between R7.42 and R7.98 per share.
Further, the acquisition would allow CBH to gain scale and a more sustainable product mix, along with delivering an enhanced ability to sell further processed and fully cooked chicken products.
Sovereign, which employs about 1 300 people directly, while indirectly employing more than 4 000 others, has invested heavily in modern technologies and specialises in end-to-end poultry production for the retail, catering and food services markets.
CBH chief executive Marthinus Stander said the company was comfortable making a solid offer that shareholders would seriously weigh up.
He said the offer to all Sovereign shareholders had been made after unsuccessful attempts to engage the Sovereign board.
Sovereign management could not be reached for comment yesterday.
US President Barack Obama is deeply troubled by the fatal shooting of two black men by white police officers – events that led to protests across the nation and shooting of several police officers in Dallas‚ Texas.
Obama said the shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile was symptomatic of racial disparities in the US justice system which needed to be addressed.
The White House published his reaction to the death of the two men on its Facebook page.
“All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge‚ Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights‚ Minnesota. We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times‚ and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss‚” said Obama.
“Although I am constrained in commenting on the particular facts of these cases‚ I am encouraged that the US Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge‚ and I have full confidence in their professionalism and their ability to conduct a thoughtful‚ thorough‚ and fair inquiry.
“But regardless of the outcome of such investigations‚ what’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system‚ the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year‚ and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve‚” he said.
While admitting “we’ve got a serious problem”‚ he emphasised his respect for the “vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day”.
“It is to say that‚ as a nation‚ we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.”
He asked for recognition of the anger‚ frustration and grief expressed by those who were protesting peacefully and holding vigils.
“Michelle and I share those feelings. Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing‚ let’s reflect on what we can do better. Let’s come together as a nation‚ and keep faith with one another‚ in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter‚” said Obama.
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Six-times champion Serena Williams stormed into her ninth Wimbledon final in record time yesterday and will meet Angelique Kerber after the German ended Venus Williams’s hopes of becoming the oldest woman in the title match in 22 years.
Serena, bidding for a seventh Wimbledon and an open era record-equalling 22nd grand slam title, took just 48mins 34sec – the fastest ever semifinal at the All England Club – to secure a 6-2 6-0 win over world No 50 Elena Vesnina.
But her hopes of meeting Venus for the fifth time in a Wimbledon final and ninth time at a major were shattered when fourth seed Kerber, the Australian Open champion, saw off the 36-year-old 6-4 6-4.
Serena, playing in her 32nd grand slam semifinal, blasted last-four debutant Vesnina off the sun-kissed Centre Court in front of Prince William’s wife, Catherine, watching from up in the Royal Box.
American Serena fired 11 aces and 28 winners and committed just seven unforced errors, breaking serve five times to reach her 28th grand slam final.
Vesnina won just three points off the Williams serve in the first set and none in the second.
Williams has now defeated the Russian five times in five meetings.
Despite the painfully one-sided semifinal, Williams, into her third grand slam final of the year, insisted it had been a tough workout.
“It’s never easy out there, every point you have to fight for,” she said.
“I can’t believe I’m in the final this year. I’m 0-2 this year so I’m determined to win one.
“I want Venus to win, but Kerber would be another good match.”
Vesnina, who was due to face Serena again in the women’s doubles later yesterday, admitted she just was not good enough.
“I felt like I had no chance. Serena was playing really well,” she said. “She was just better all over the court.”
Yesterday’s contest saw Serena race to a 4-0 lead in the first set before 29-year-old Vesnina got on the board. But the set was over in 28 minutes courtesy of Williams’ seventh ace.
The second set was wrapped up in just 20 minutes with breaks in the first, third and fifth games.
Tomorrow’s final will give Serena a chance to win a first major of the season after losing to Kerber in the final in Melbourne and Garbine Muguruza in Paris.
Kerber saw off five-times champion Venus in 71 minutes on Centre Court to reach her first All England Club title match.
“Venus has won so many times here and was playing really well. That’s why I’m so happy to reach my first Wimbledon final,” Kerber, 28, said.
Kerber stunned Serena to win her maiden grand slam crown in the Australian Open final in January and can now set her sights on becoming the first player to defeat both of the American siblings in the same grand slam since Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open.
If she can cause another upset against Serena, Kerber would become the first German woman to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graf in 1996.
She has raced through her six matches at Wimbledon without dropping a set, has a WTA tour-best 34 match wins this year and is guaranteed to rise to a career-high second in the world rankings next week.
Venus had won all eight of her previous Wimbledon semifinals, dating back 16 years to her maiden appearance in the last four, when she defeated Serena.
But in her first All England Club semifinal for seven years, Venus – the oldest woman to make the last four since Martina Navratilova in 1994 – was unable to roll back the years one more time.
Four police officers were fatally shot and seven wounded in one of the shootings of police in recent U.S. history, by snipers who targeted them during rallies in Dallas to protest against the fatal shooting of two black men by police this week.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown told a news conference that two snipers in elevated positions shot 11 officers, killing three, in what appeared to be a coordinated attack. A fourth officer died, police said later on Twitter. At least one more was in surgery. Some of the victims were shot in the back.
Police said one suspect whom they had engaged in a shootout had been arrested and a bomb squad unit was investigating a suspicious package found near the suspect’s location.
A second “person of interest” had turned himself in, they added, though there was no word on the arrest of a possible second sniper.
“Our worst nightmare has happened,” Mike Rawlings, mayor of the Texas city, told a news conference. “It is a heartbreaking moment for the city of Dallas.”
Television footage showed a heavy police presence, with officers taking cover behind vehicles on the street.
The shooting happened as largely peaceful protests unfolded around the United States after the shooting of Philando Castile, 32, by police near St. Paul, Minnesota, late on Wednesday. His girlfriend posted live video on the internet of the bloody scene minutes afterward, which was widely viewed.
Castile’s death occurred within a day of the shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling was killed during an altercation with two white police officers. Graphic video of that incident caused an outcry on social media.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dallas law enforcement community and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit officers killed and injured this evening,” Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.
In Chicago, protesters shut down a stretch of the Dan Ryan Expressway – one of Chicago’s main arteries – for about 10 minutes on Thursday.
In New York, several hundred protesters blocked traffic in Times Square in the heart of Manhattan, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot.” More than a dozen arrests were made, the New York Police Department said.
In St. Paul, about a thousand people gathered outside the governor’s mansion, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, those killer cops have got to go,” and other slogans.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton made a brief appearance in an attempt to quell the crowd. He said earlier a state investigation was already under way.
“Would this have happened if the driver and the passengers were white? I don’t think it would have,” Dayton told reporters, speaking of the Castile shooting.
“So I’m forced to confront that this kind of racism exists, and it’s incumbent upon all of us to vow and ensure that it doesn’t happen and doesn’t continue to happen,” he said.
State investigators later identified Minneapolis area police officer Jeronimo Yanez as the patrolman who fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop.
U.S. President Barack Obama described the killings as tragedies.
“All of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings, because these are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system,” he said after arriving in Poland for a NATO summit.
The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic and sometimes violent protests in the past two years and has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement.
Anger has intensified when the officers involved in such incidents have been acquitted in trials or not charged at all.
“I was already fuming when I woke up this morning over Baton Rouge, but for it to happen here again just pushed me right over the edge,” said truck driver Thomas Michaels, 42, who was among the protesters in St. Paul.
“We live in a racist society where black lives don’t matter, my kids lives don’t matter and I’m sick of it. I don’t even know if it can be fixed,” he said.
Another protester, retail worker Tanya McDonald, 28, said: “What gets me is how many people are failing to see that this is happening almost every day. We’re dying, we’re being killed off by people hiding behind a badge and no one’s doing anything to stop it.”
The Washington Post said Castile was at least the 506th person and 123rd black American shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to a database it has set up to track such deaths.
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The DA has accused the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality of misleading the public on unemployment figures.
The party was referring to a report by the head of economic development, Anele Qaba, that was presented to the portfolio committee – which said unemployment was decreasing in the municipal area, albeit slowly.
DA mayoral candidate Athol Trollip said the unemployment rate in Nelson Mandela Bay constituted a crisis.
Statistics South Africa’s latest quarterly labour survey pegged unemployment at 33.2% in the Bay.
This is, however, down on the 36.6% recorded in the 2011 census.
“A DA-led government in the Bay would immediately work to establish opportunity centres in crucial hubs, which would focus on working with business owners to streamline licensing, rates and utilities applications, land-use requests and tax queries,” Trollip said.
“Job zones in high-density residential areas will provide grouped facilities for informal traders to conduct business.
“These zones will not only supply utility services such as water, electricity and lighting, but will serve as mini-markets, where buyers can purchase everything they need in a single trip.”
Federation president goes on charm offensive in Bay
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini jetted into Nelson Mandela Bay – where his detractors are the strongest – yesterday, claiming the labour federation was on the road to rebuilding itself and restoring unity in the metro.
Dlamini, flanked by ANC national executive committee member Bheki Cele, went on a charm offensive, patting union members on the back for what he said was a job well done in fixing the rift in the region.
Dlamini was speaking at the Department of Education district offices in Sidwell.
Three years ago, Cosatu was ripped apart in Nelson Mandela Bay as a large number of its affiliates backed Numsa and former Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi in the leadership squabbles.
When Numsa broke away, it took a large contingent of its members from Cosatu’s power base in the Bay.
At the highly charged meeting yesterday, attended by members of Cosatu affiliates, Dlamini said the federation had been attacked from its strong base in the Bay when the ructions started.
“When things fell apart, it started here. People saw it as fertile [ground],” Dlamini said.
“[With] the history of this region of our country – where the liberation struggle of our people was [vibrant] – they said, ‘let’s go there and attack from right there, and use the grievances that are existing from that point to target each and every Cosatu union, to win in it . . . so when everything falls, the new agenda kicks in’.”
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