A cannabis activist lit up a joint during a live debate about legalisation aired on South Africa’s state broadcaster, in front of the deputy chairman of the country’s Central Drug Authority.
Andre Du Plessis reacted with outrage after the agency’s David Bayever blamed a delay in submitting a report on the legalisation issue on the country’s recent xenophobic attacks.
Mr Du Plessis, who was participating in Monday’s SABC interview from a mobile studio in the port city of Durban, responded that Bayever was making an “excuse for being late and doing your job”, before putting a joint between his lips and lighting up.
He took a couple of puffs as the spokesman continued to argue for further research, before muttering, when asked for further comment by the SABC presenter: “I think that’s all I’ve gotta say”. He then stood, removed his microphone and walked off set. Neither the presenter nor Mr Bayever displayed any reaction.
Speaking to rival broadcaster ENCA later, Mr Du Plessis confirmed the joint contained marijuana, known locally as “dagga”.
He expressed his frustration at the government “dragging out” the issue of cannabis legalisation, which has been ongoing in South Africa for several years.
“Government bureaucracy, they’re not actually dealing with the situation which is cannabis and the reality of the cannabis situation in South Africa. I’m done talking hey? The reality is with cannabis is that people smoke it, and I did.”
Asked to confirm that he did so during the interview, he added: “Yeah, absolutely, I’m going to admit it.
“The research has been done. There’s no need to continue talking because we know what we need to do. The spin by the CDA and the Department of Health, they’re just dragging this thing out while the rest of the world moves on. Colorado and Washington are making billions a year in the cannabis issue and South Africa is losing out.”
The SABC distanced itself from the activist’s actions. “The SABC Broadcaster and the SABC Newsroom does not condone the actions of our guest Andre Du Plessis. The views expressed in this video clip/interview are not that of the SABC and Associates, but that of the guest,” the national broadcaster said on its YouTube channel.
Possession of cannabis in South Africa is currently punishable by a fine and or up to two years’ imprisonment.