David Mahlobo: Teflon tubby

Andrew Donaldson on the paranoid fruitcake's appearance before Zondo & other matters [FOR MEMBERS]


JUST because he’s a large paranoid fruitcake doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get David Mahlobo. As the one-time state security minister, he ran the intelligence services with a fist of flab in the delusional Zuma era and was greatly feared. But the Mahlobo who appeared before the Zondo commission on Friday is very much a shadow of his former self. A very large and defensive shadow. Anyone who had ever said anything nasty or incriminating against him, he said, was basically lying. It was as simple as that. They had agendas. Enemies were everywhere. Et cetera. 


Not very original, admittedly. But here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) we fondly recall the Mahlobo of old, the big pudding who ordered the jamming of cellphones in Parliament in 2015. He claimed there was drone activity in the area. (There was: it was another of Accused Number One’s state of the nation addresses.) He suggested public protector Thuli Madonsela could be a CIA spy. (It takes one to know one, it seems.) He knew of the May 2016 riots in Vuyani, in Limpopo, a year before they actually happened. (He did nothing to prevent them; this presumably would have blown his cover.) 

Best of all, though, was his patronage of alleged rhino-horn trafficker Guan Jiang Guang’s Chinese massage parlour in Mbombela. These were more carefree times, before reports emerged of Mahlobo’s “friendship” with parlour employee Wei Chelsea, a slip of a girl a third his size, and that the place was actually a knocking shop. How opposition MPs mocked him then, with their jeers of “happy endings”. Guang was secretly filmed for an Al Jazeera documentary displaying cellphone pictures of himself with Mahlobo. He claimed the minister’s wife was involved in rhino horn smuggling. He also considered Mahlobo, who allegedly visited his massage parlour sometimes weekly, to be a useful contact. 

Sleaze of this nature would normally end a career. But no. In October 2017, Mahlobo was made energy minister, a job he lost in February 2018, when Cyril Ramaphosa became president. Squirrel later appointed him deputy minister in the department of human settlements, water and sanitation. There he bobbed about like a toy duck in a bath, doing little but perhaps long for the old spy days. But he may now finally be out in the cold, a not very happy ending for the teflon tubby.

350 years of dagga cultivation

Here’s an interesting cultural exchange from our bitterly contested colonial past that may yet have far-reaching beneficial consequences:

On 21 June, 1658, a young Khoikhoi woman known as Eva and who acted as Jan van Riebeeck’s interpreter informed him of the Hancumqua, an inland tribe who cultivated a plant that, once dried, was chewed with considerable enthusiasm by the locals. 

This herb was “highly” regarded by the Khoikhoi, Van Riebeeck recorded in his diary, and these Hancumqua “make a living by keeping cattle and planting the valuable herb dacha, which drugs their brains, just like opium … and that is why this tribe is so fond of it.” 

Soon after that, the Dutch taught the Khoikhoi to smoke pipes. Ere long, as they say in history, everyone was out of their gourds.


Fast forward some 350 years and interest in the sort of living that can be made by planting the valuable herb is growing at a healthy pace. Last week government released the fifth version of its National Cannabis Master Plan for public input. 

This is worrying. A masterplan? This government? This was sobering enough to drive the out-of-it right out of a stoner once the getting out of it was got. 

On a more chilled note, the document makes for interesting reading. It is tempting to suggest its authors may themselves have been smoking a bit when putting pen to paper. However, it would seem that if they were under the influence of anything, it was the heady, intoxicating allure of easy money.  

Finance minister Tito Mboweni, a man with great faith in woo-woo, has long banged on about the commercial possibilities of marijuana. To this end, he has even posted snaps of his dagga plants on Twitter to drive home the claim that dope industries would add billions to the fiscus, and thus ease taxpayer burdens.

The plan claims the local market could be worth R27-billion by 2023, when the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, currently before the National Assembly, is expected to be passed into law

This will give effect to the Constitutional Court’s 2018 ruling that adults may use, cultivate and possess cannabis in private for their consumption and that any prohibition of dagga for private use limits the rights to individual privacy.

Dealing, of course, remains illegal. And therein lies a small problem.

There are, the masterplan claims, some 3.5 million South Africans who use dagga recreationally. Most of them “are situated in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and also other South African towns and cities”. 

In other words, they’re everywhere. They get stoned in a “variety of ways”, and here the document embarrasses itself with its hip, streetwise posturing while tossing a bit of anti-dope propaganda into the mix at the possible expense of syntax and grammar:

“Cannabis can be smoked with implements such as joints, blunts, bongs and pipes. Makeshift pipes or commercial pipes may be used, or cigarette-like joint or cigar-like blunt may be smoked. Local methods have differed by the preparation of the cannabis plant before use, the parts of the cannabis plant that are used, and the treatment of the smoke before inhalation. A vaporiser heats herbal cannabis which causes the active ingredients to evaporate into a gas without burning any plant material… 

“A key component of dagga is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the key mind-altering (psychoactive) substance in marijuana. It acts on specific brain receptors, causing possible mood changes, depression, suicidal thoughts, memory issues and disruption to normal learning abilities. It may also produce dependency. The compound is also known to stimulate appetite (informally known as ‘the munchies’) and induce a relaxed state, as well as other effects on sense of smell, hearing, and eyesight. THC can also cause fatigue and in some people, it may reduce aggression…” 

There are, the plan states, 900 000 small-scale dope farmers in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces. That’s a lot of farmers and it does appear as if that figure has one or two zeros too many. Either that, or there really is a ratio of about one farmer to every four users. Or it could be that it’s 35 million South Africans who smoke dope… 

It is, however, a fact that many users are not able to grow their own weed and must rely on the services of a trusted dealer. 

Or they can join a cannabis “grow club”. 

A number of these have sprung up. One of them, Cape Town’s The Haze Club, or THC, is presently awaiting the outcome of a High Court application regarding the legality of its operation. In October last year, THC’s premises were raided by the police (informally known as “the boere” or “pigs”) and director Neil Liddell and employee Ben van Houten were arrested and charged with possession of a trafficcable quantity of dagga. Cops said that the 344 plants confiscated had an estimated six-figure street value. 

Liddell and Van Houten, currently out on bail of R10 000 each, claim the laws that outlaw grow clubs are unconstitutional and infringe on people’s rights to cultivate and use cannabis privately. Their business model is simple: members buy their own seeds and, after signing up, these are delivered to be grown and harvested by the club. This means the plants remain at all times members’ property.

Meanwhile, investors are throwing serious money at the non-recreational dagga and hemp sectors. Demand for marijuana, particularly for medicinal purposes and by the cosmetics industry, is strong. Hemp continues to be an attractive opportunity; it’s extraordinarily versatile, and is used in a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, ceiling boards, bricks, food, paper, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation and biofuels.

Cannabis-based food products are another fast-growing sector. According to the government’s plan, this market was valued at $427-million globally in 2018 and is expected to reach $2.6-billion by 2026. 

“Edibles”, the plan helpfully states, are food products that contain THC: “They include mints, gummies, candy, ice cream and cookies … Cannabis-infused drinks also form part of the edibles. Most edibles contain a significant amount of THC, which can induce a wide range of effects, including relaxation, euphoria, increased appetite, fatigue and anxiety. THC-dominant edibles are consumed for recreational purposes.”

Be that as it may, it is the “straighter” side of the dope business that is likely to be the bigger money-spinner. One possible indication of this is tycoon Johann Rupert’s quiet entry into the market. Cannabiz Africa reports that Rupert took up indirect shares in  January in local cannabidiol business Rethink, a move that “signals clearly that corporate South Africa is waking up to the potential of the cannabis economy”.

Government does, however, have all the usual ideas about who should benefit from dagga. Its plan waffles on a bit about how it is expected to “maintain a delicate balance” between protecting the citizens against drugs while promoting “legitimate economic activities that would be brought about by commercialisation of dagga and hemp”. It then states a key intervention:

“Creation of enabling policy, legal, and regulatory environment for the inclusive economic participation of the previously disadvantaged community enterprises.”

Enter then the cadres. The departments of Trade, Industry and Competition and Small Business Development will be coming up with something to interfere with and bother people in this regard. Those small-scale dagga farmers should be afraid. Very afraid.

Blankety blanks

My friend Tammin always calls when she’s playing Scrabble. I pick up the phone and she’ll say, “Carl’s played ‘zenos’. Z-E-N-O-S. Says it’s an old Greek something or other. Please tell me he’s talking kak.” I tell her there are dictionaries for this. She says using a dictionary means a possible forfeit, but there’s nothing in the rules about phoning a buddy for a sociable chat. “Dictionaries just aren’t the same.”

Well, not now perhaps. Mattell, which owns the rights to the board game outside North America, has removed from official lists of permissible words some 400 derogatory terms which, it claims, “have no place in a family game”. The ruling has implications for competition-level Scrabble, which is played by thousands at international tournaments.

Bizarrely, the company refuses to publish these terms, but a report in The Times suggests they include “epithets against black, Pakistani and Irish people”. Other forbidden slurs are directed at white people. The Jewish words “goy” and “shiksa” are also out. The Sun, meanwhile, has suggested that “goolies”, “arse”, “fatso” and “boffing”, among others, may too be banned, although such speculation could be dismissed as an example of the tabloid’s potty-mouthed editorial style. 

The ruling is political, according to Mattel boss Ray Adler, and a direct result of the Black Lives Matter protests. It follows a similar decision by US rights holders Hasbro. The move has angered prominent members of the Scrabble community, who argue that playing a word is not insulting in itself. Darryl Francis, a British author who has helped oversee official word lists since the 1980s, has resigned from the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association in protest, saying:

“Words listed in dictionaries and Scrabble lists are not slurs. They only become slurs when used with a derogatory purpose or intent, or used with a particular tone and in a particular context. Words in our familiar Scrabble word lists should not be removed because of a PR purpose disguised as promoting some kind of social betterment.”

Terms surviving the purge included “wrinklie”, “milf”, “slut” and “chav”, the latter being an “insulting word for a young working class person who wears casual sporting clothes”.

The end of civilisation as we know it

In a bid to sex up The Hundred, a new form of cricket that is even more vulgar than  T20, the England and Wales Cricket Board wants to change the game’s language in a bid to attract new fans. When the series starts this summer, the word “wicket” will be replaced with “out”. There will be no “overs”. Instead the game will feature 100-ball innings with blocks of ten balls bowled from alternate ends. A traditionalist, dismayed at the proposed “Americanised” dumbing down, has written to The Times

“[The board] is worried that the word ‘wicket’ may prove incomprehensible to the kind of spectator they want to attract. Why not go further and replace the word ‘over’ with the easy to understand ‘load of balls’. Except that many spectators may take that as referring to the utterances of the ECB, or indeed to The Hundred competition itself.”