Call to legalise the ‘green’ diamond of Mapoteng

KABELO MASOABI

BEREA – In the dense veld of Mapoteng, marijuana remains an indispensable element of families among the indigenes who from one generation to another, have supplemented their livelihood by growing and trading in the illegal weed. Located about 70 kilometres north-east of the capital town Maseru, Mapoteng is renowned for its inexhaustible supply of dagga to users within and outside the country, with South Africa being the prime consumer market.

Mafobe Limaka of Sebetia, a father to six children and a grandfather to nine, narrates how over the years the planting and peddling in the merchandise has guaranteed reliable income that sustains his large family. “I still recall very well that my grandfather was never employed, so was my father. My siblings and I went as far as we could with our education and our parents never struggled to pay fees, buy us clothes and putting food on the table was not a problem.

“We never went to sleep on empty stomachs because our father, as the sole breadwinner, rose to become a cartel tycoon in the dagga dealing, exporting it to countries as far as Swaziland and Botswana,” Limaka says. “Since my adolescence I have been trading in dagga and this is a trend rooted in my family as my forefathers also pursued the same trail. In fact, it’s a viable illegal business practiced in Mapoteng and neighbouring villages, which has stood the test of time with law enforcement agents completely powerless to stop it,” he explains.

From this elderly man’s accounts, Mapoteng could be described as the country’s main plantation of marijuana whose soil and high altitude make it conducive for growing dagga. “Other places were blessed with quality soil for other agricultural uses. Ours is good for generating dagga, which is also an essential herb for manufacturing medicines.

“We therefore appeal to our government to stop arresting and convicting local marijuana traders rather pass a law that should allow and formally regulate free trade in dagga. “This would not only benefit individuals but also boost revenue through tax extractions. If the government truly intends to eradicate poverty I advise it to utilize all the resources available to this country, which should include free trade in marijuana. They should consider giving us licences to trade in marijuana,” he said.

A few months ago, in just a one week a Lesotho Mounted Police Service operation netted 776 bags of dagga confiscated in Berea (Mapoteng alone), while another 99 were found in other districts. Among those arrested was a 44-year-old man found in possession of marijuana, which he allegedly sold to high school students and other youths.

The then police Spokesperson Superintendent Clifford Molefe said the suspect sold dagga under pretense of vending regular fruits. Last week Public Eye visited Mapoteng and witnessed a student in school uniform approaching a shack stall that sells potatochips, airtime and other small items, but heard him asking to buy a “twist” of dagga from the stall. This reporter heard him asking for a petite bag of matekoane (dagga) for M5 Maloti, but the vendor said there was no stock and advised the teenager to return after school to get it.

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