- Former minister says the favourable judgment found firm already frustrated
- Govt hasn’t appealed the judgment as previously stated
Hemp farmer Daniel de Beer has dumped Botswana after the Gaborone High Court ruled in his favour to continue production of hemp. De Beer is the Director of Fresh Standard, the company that was granted an exemption to plant and grow hemp in Botswana.
In January this year, Justice Chris Gabanagae ruled that revocation of the exemption letter Daniel de Beer was received in October 2018 was illegal, a ruling that eventually paved the way for production of hemp-cannabis-like plants for medicinal and industrial purposes.
This publication has established that although he successfully challenged the decision by the state, De Beer had already decided that he would not go ahead with production following several raids and alleged threats by the state.
Asked about whether he is aware of the relocation, former agriculture minister Patrick Ralotsia, who granted the exemption to De Beer, answered: “Yes, I am fully aware that they have since relocated to South Africa where they have taken the business idea of (hemp production) to. Informed people know how big Botswana has lost in this.”
Regarding what he knew of De Beer’s decision to ignore the judgment and leave the country, Ralotsia responded: “They were being harassed and threatened. No foreigner can withstand those things. They had lost money and trust in their government was compromised. They were obviously frustrated.”
Since the judgment which the state had said it would appeal, there has been no production and Ralotsia believes there won’t be any unless a miracle happens for Botswana to embrace hemp like other countries have done. On the other hand, the government has not appealed the judgment after saying it would.
Launching his case before the court before his relocation, De Beer said he had invested millions of pula into the project only for the police to raid and uproot his fledgling crops suspecting that the plants were cannabis.
Ruling in his favour, Justice Gabanagae said the permanent secretary had no right to revoke the exemption letter and that only the minister had the power to do so. “The PS does not have the power or authority to withdraw the exemption. The letter from March 2019 purporting to withdraw the exemption could not and is not a valid withdrawal of the exemption,” he ruled.
Justice Gabanagae said that in addition to the permanent secretary simply not having any authority to withdraw the exemption, he also never engaged the farmer prior to issuing the letter and that he was never accorded a hearing at all, let alone a fair one.
Economic benefits in hemp
Meanwhile, the leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko has called Botswana to legalise hemp production because there are economic benefits to reap.
Hemp, he said, offers a yield of about P13.37 per plant and up to 12 500 000 plants per 5000 acres. “That gives P167 125 000 per 5000 acres,” said Boko. “Hemp growers can employ 10 000 people to maintain a 10 000-hectare farm.”
Industrial hemp is legalised in 13 nations in Africa, five of them in the SADC region, namely Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa.