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A leader of the Khoisan Indigenous people was arrested last Wednesday on charges that his three-year-old protest camp was illegally growing and selling cannabis outside of South Africa’s presidential offices. Police clad in riot gear dragged King Khoisan out of the compound as he carried a cannabis plant, telling them, “This tree will not be removed. You will see some resistance.”
Three others were also arrested and charged with illegal cultivation and sale of what is popularly known in South Africa as “dagga,” reports The South African. King Khoisan was released on no-cost bail the following Thursday — and promptly hit his cannabis pipe upon leaving court.
“Police, I am telling you: You have declared war today,” he said on Wednesday before being loaded into a police car.
King Khoisan S.A handcuffed in the back of a police van on his way to Pretoria Central Court C today 13th Jan 2022#eNCA #sabcnews #Newzroom405 #MyHeritageYourHeritage #LindiweSisulu @AJENews— KhoisanUB (@KhoisanU) January 13, 2022
#Khoisan6 @GovernmentZA @MorningLiveSABC @pretorianews @jacarandafm pic.twitter.com/k55BmCcc3N
Khoisan activists have been camping on the lawns of the president’s offices, near a statue of Nelson Mandela, since 2018. They are demanding that the South African government recognize them as a First Nation, and that the ancient Khoisan tongues be recognized as official South African languages.
King Khoisan’s partner, Queen Cynthia, appeared in a video posted to Twitter explaining that the plants were for treating people with health conditions like high blood pressure.
“They’re looking for something illegal to remove us,” she said.
#3years57daysoflockdown at the Union Buildings still waiting on CyrilRamaphosa away from our homes & families— KhoisanUB (@KhoisanU) January 12, 2022
12th Jan 2022 - Khoisan Queen Cynthia#eNCA #sabcnews #Newzroom405 #MyHeritageYourHeritage #RekordEast @AJENews #Khoisan6 @GovernmentZA pic.twitter.com/6VIRyw6EwS
Africa is one of the cradles of global cannabis culture, and it's the site of the earliest records of people smoking the plant. South Africa is one of the African nations that has taken steps toward widening cannabis access in recent years. The country decriminalized private use and possession of marijuana for adults, and has a thriving cannabis pharmaceutical industry that began exporting cannabis to Europe last year.
There has been criticism of the country’s regulatory system, which some say does not benefit the Black Indigenous people who have traditionally cultivated dagga. Last spring, the Black Farmers’ Association of South Africa held protests calling for the dissolution of what it sees as a deeply-biased federal agency that grants licenses primarily to big, foreign businesses.
The Khoisan did not have official permission to cultivate the plant in their gardens, where they also grow vegetables. Officials have been doubling down on their efforts to dislodge the protest movement from the president’s lawn. The camp spent Christmas without power, though that doesn’t seem to have discouraged its residents.
“Switching off the lights before Christmas did not bother us at all, we are the bushmen, we don’t need lights,” Khoisan said.
"I am very cross,” said King Khoisan’s partner, Queen Cynthia, after he was arrested. “We've been here since November 2018 and [President Cyril] Ramaphosa has never even taken a minute of his time to address or acknowledge our presence yet they now bring in police to torment us.”
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