Jeremy Vearey's dagga leaf t-shirt

Andrew Donaldson on Mark Wiley's rather petty drug-related complaint

HERE at the Mahogany Ridge, our attitude towards royalty is very French - the greater the distance between a monarch's head and the rest of his body the healthier the society. 

We will however make an exception for Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, king of the AbaThembu. True, he's nothing more than a jumped-up chief laying a feudal trip over some kraals in the Eastern Cape. But he has been making rude noises about President Jacob Zuma so it might be entertaining if he hung around for a bit.

Last weekend, in Qunu, at a prayer service for Nelson Mandela, Dalindyebo described the ruling party and Zuma as "corrupt hooligans" who had distorted the former president's legacy with their arrogant behaviour. If the ANC remained in power for another ten years, South Africa's freedom would be compromised, he added. More impressively, he vowed, "I will stop smoking dagga the day Zuma stops being corrupt." (He could be stoned for a while, then.)

This certainly was something to reflect upon, particularly as it was SA National Council on Alcohol & Drug Dependence's Drug Awareness Week. Hopefully Mark Wiley, the Democratic Alliance's Western Cape community safety spokesperson, has also reflected on the matter - particularly as he has filed one of the pettier drug-related complaints we've seen in a long time.

Wiley wrote to Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer demanding that he discipline Jeremy Vearey, the commander of the Mitchells Plain SAPS cluster, for publicly wearing clothing that "could be seen as promoting drug use" - a T-shirt with a dagga leaf printed on it.

Vearey later explained he was a reggae fan and the shirt had had been a Father's Day gift from his two sons, and it was they who dared him to wear it to a march on Parliament - which he did. He later posted on his Facebook page, "The Equal Education march in Cape Town - training my sons in the ABC of revolutionary solidarity and mass mobilisation." 

He was particularly scathing about Wiley's complaint, and wrote, "How many prejudiced white Anglo-Saxon patrician angels (wasps) stood on the head of a pin to make this argument?" 

But this incensed Wiley, who complained that Vearey was "arrogantly" defending the T-shirt. "His personal attack and race-based response is nothing short of shocking and in all my years of public representation I have never encountered such comments from a senior civil servant," he fumed. "If there was any doubts about his fitness to hold an executive staff position in the civil service he has effectively banished them with his response."

Worse still, Wiley said, Vearey's attitude was indicative "of an utter disregard for the devastating effect that drugs have on communities like Mitchells Plain" where the prevalence of dagga smoking was three times higher than the national average.

Of course, one of the more devastating effects of dagga, particularly among those who don't use it, was the pious rectitude and high-pitched moral tone. Experienced cops like Vearey know only too well that it is not drugs that are the problem - but rather their prohibition. Legalising drugs would surely be the most effective method of combating the gangsterism that leeches off the city's working class communities. 

When, for example, the American states of Colorado and Washington last year voted to legalise marijuana, the Instituto Mexicano para la Competividad, a Mexico City-based think tank, calculated the projected annual revenue the Mexican drug cartels stood to lose at a staggering $1.4-billion.

If states like California and Texas, which were closer to Mexico, followed suit and also legalised marijuana, the bottom would surely fall right out of the drug-running business. Legalise drugs here, and the gangs would probably collapse.

But back to Vearey. The real danger with his T-shirt is that it also featured the word "Rastafarian". This could be seen as proselytising. All religions have their mumbo-jumbo and mystic babble, but the Rastafarians have it really bad.

Like most faiths, theirs is particularly backward when it comes to the lot of women, who, according to their beliefs, are subordinate to men, are regarded as unclean when menstruating (and may not cook for their husbands at such times) and are forbidden to practice birth control. 

Another concern with Vearey is that he has admitted to training his sons in "revolutionary solidarity". This is a heinous form of child abuse. Given the DA's relentless, punctilious interference in the activities of citizens, it should come as no surprise if the boys were suddenly removed from his care and placed in a welfare institution where they would be taught to ride bicycles. He has been warned.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.

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