IN THE MATTER OF
RASTA BEAT obo THE RASTAFARI COMMUNITY APPLICANT
THE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE RESPONDENT
STATEMENT OF FACT
1. The inflammatory remarks uttered by Mr. Mark Wiley from the Democratic Alliance on the Voice of Islam radio station on 25June 2013 at 08h15am ‘It is no secret that the Rastafarian community openly uses and promotes dagga. Dagga is a prohibited substance and for a senior police staff officer to be seen associating himself with this drug is nothing short of scandalous” is in conflict with the spirit, letter and purport of our constitutional democracy and perpetuates intolerance and insensitivity in violation of the equality provisions.
2. Mr. Wiley’s characterization of cannabis as a drug is unsound, unscientific and unconstitutional and is purely based on antiquated, racist and culturally presumptuous premises. The Rastafari community emphatically denies the classification of cannabis as a drug and Mr. Wiley and the Democratic Alliance is put to the proof thereof.
3. The respondent’s assertion that Major General Veary’s conduct is unbecoming that of a senior police official is not only presumptuous but ignorant; as empirical studies shows that in several countries where they changed their approach to dealing with substance abuse that those changes came as a result of senior police officers putting pressure on government.
4. The DA’s statement undoubtedly denotes the Rastafari way of life as scandalous, criminal and facilitating substance abuse. This characterization is not only uncalled for; it perpetuates prejudice and intolerance. It is destructive of social cohesion and refuses to acknowledge Rastafari as legitimate members of society and as the custodians of indigenous aboriginal culture.
5. The true test for tolerance as required by the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000 lies not in making space for that which is easily and readily accommodated or tolerated, but in finding space for the bizarre, the unusual and even that which in the past was seen as threatening. Rastafari is a religious and spiritual movement that forms an integral part of the rich South African cultural tapestry. Whereas our way of life was frowned upon under apartheid; the constitution obliges the DA and the government to recognize our existential rights and make reasonable space for the growth and flourishing of the Rastafari way of life.
6. Our practice of using cannabis cannot be blamed for the problem of substance abuse in our society as we the first nation people of this country used cannabis long before the advent of the DA and their kind and even long before substance abuse became a legitimate concern in our communities. Lumping Rastafari use of cannabis with the abusers of hard drugs is not only unconstitutional, it is downright wicked as our community can be demonstrated to be one that eschews drugs and substance abuse and that we use less addictive substances then most if not all cultures in South Africa.
7. Equality in our constitutional democracy mean equal respect and concern for difference; not treating everyone the same. Difference is no longer seen as divisive or destructive; but as adding to variety which is the mother of enjoyment. The cultural and social practices of one group in society can no longer enjoy preference over others that are as deserving of protection and care. When these practices forms part of the culture and social practices of the previously disadvantaged it places a higher responsibility on the provincial and national government to find space for the effective recognition and enjoyment of these practices.
8. The usage of cannabis is a customary cultural practice of the first nation people of this country and it also migrated to other cultures in our society to the extent that its usage can fairly be said to be national.
9. The DA does not characterize the practice of giving communion in church as promoting alcoholism in our society; neither can the problem of woman and child abuse be laid in front of the door of those cultures that practice polygamy. To blame Rastafari for drug abuse is racist and bigoted and the assertion has no basis in empirical reality. The conduct of the respondent thus amounts to unfair discrimination.
10. The Rastafari community has a right to live their lives as free and responsible citizens and we submit that there is nothing in our lifestyle that necessitates government labeling us as drug abusers and our lifestyle as one that facilitates drug abuse.
11. The Democratic Alliance must proof that the Rastafari community and our usage of cannabis is criminogenic and that society cannot reasonably accommodate our cultural and religious practice without compromising general health and safety.
12. The creation of an egalitarian society with equality as its focal and organizing principle will remain a fleeting illusion, ever to be pursued but never to be attained unless there is a concerted effort on the part of government to be pragmatic about resolving the problems of our times such as substance abuse.
13. All over the world it is becoming increasingly evident that harm prevention policies in respect of substance abuse have failed dismally and that the societies that have made real forward strides in combating the problem of substance abuse did so because of harm reduction policies. The problem of substance abuse is thus not seen as a problem for the criminal justice system but as a social dilemma which necessitates viewing those who have substance abuse problems not as criminals or junkies but as patients which require care not jail. The DA’s attempt to throw the criminal justice system at the problem is not pragmatic and is out of tune with social reality.
14. The Rastafari community wants an unconditional apology from the Democratic Alliance for scandalizing our name and impugning our character.