Knysna’s poorest suffer most while State clings to blunt oppression tool

Regardless of the recent trauma our town has suffered, and regardless of the new direction the country’s laws are taking towards cannabis decriminalisation and legalisation, our police saw fit to conduct searches on random citizens in the poorest areas of Knysna last weekend.
Among these were mothers with children on their backs carrying shopping - they also searched the children, I hear. Anyone who was on the street on their way home was stopped and searched, like a police state.
The only reason I got to find out about it was because they also stopped and searched an employee. He had 2g cannabis or less on him and was chucked in the back of a van with others.
The cops then drove them all over the other areas, until the van was too full to carry any more people. Most of the people arrested was for possession of cannabis, he said, and for very small amounts.
The jails were so full some of the prisoners were taken to Plett cells. There weren’t enough mattresses or blankets and it was really cold. He was anxious about his wife and kids worrying about his disappearance.
Our employee was released on the Monday around midday, so he lost a day’s work. He has a court date set and we will help him apply to have it thrown out, or a stay of prosecution (obtained from www.jointheq.co.za).
He is a hardworking, reliable staff member and the only time he doesn’t come to work on a Monday is after he was arrested for having a small amount of cannabis on him over a weekend. Yes, this has happened a few times.
The enraged community has begun process towards a social media campaign and are applying to protest on September 22 in support of the Trial of the Plant, and to highlight the oppression suffered by Knysna’s poorest people.
The Trial of the Plant has heard testimony from various expert witnesses this month, showing that these prohibition laws are based on outdated mind-sets; that the plant was made illegal for unscientific, racist reasons; and that cannabis is far, far less harmful than alcohol and nicotine.
The trouble is that the State does not want to give up this blunt tool of oppression passed on to them by the apartheid regime. They love it too much. Their memories are short - cannabis helped finance the struggle against apartheid - and I remember the ANC promising a kinder, more sensible and effective drug policy before 1994.
Locals wonder why we have protests on the N2. Could it be that people are tired of being treated like cattle, and being jailed for no good reason?
It seems privileged Knysna has absolutely no idea of the suffering caused by these laws. We also appeal to our Knysna born and bred mayor to help protect us from this nonsense by using her voice. Could she let us know whose side she’s on?
Look out for more information on Twitter and Facebook about the Peaceful Pavement Protest planned for late September.
‘Enlightened Local’, Knysna

(The Trial of the Cannabis Plant was scheduled to be heard in the Pretoria High Court from July 31 to August 25. Visit www.fieldsofgreenforall.org.za to find out more. - Eds.)