Cops to spray poison on dagga

Police are going to use helicopters to spray dagga fields in the former Transkei with poisonous chemicals again this year despite widespread opposition.

Eastern Cape police spokeswoman Colonel Sibongile Soci told Saturday Dispatch yesterday spraying would take place in the remote “hills and valleys” along the Mzintshana River near Port St Johns that were not easily accessible by road.

According to Soci, police would again use Round-up – a chemical that is “freely available at any hardware store” – to spray remote dagga plantations.

The decision has been slammed by eco and dagga activists who claim glysophates in the poison seriously impact flora, fauna and people. They say it has been banned all over the world.

In a letter to police last week from Ricky Stone of Boqwana Burns law firm, the Transkei Animal Welfare Initiative (TAWI), the Amapondo Children’s Project (ACP) and Fields of Green for All (FGFA) claimed using glysophates violated constitutional human rights.

They said since government started spraying over 20 years ago, extensive research had been done on the negative health and environmental impacts that had even recently resulted in the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring glysophates a grade two carcinogenic that “probably causes cancer”. They also question the environmental impact in a sensitive bio-diversity hotspot.

FGFA activist Jules Stobbs yesterday said police had replied to the letter and “told us all to f**k off, basically”.

The letter to police and other government departments said communities and farmers in the affected area had asked for help to prevent spraying and that they would get a court interdict if necessary and that 40000 “concerned citizens” supported their cause on social media.

They described spraying as “a crime against humanity” that violated environmental and other legislation.

Last year, when Saturday Dispatch broke the story, the newspaper was told of pilots spraying fields while people stood in them waving flags, and of livestock also being doused.

Although in contravention of manufacturer label warnings stating the area must be cleared first and people entering soon afterwards wear protective clothing, police said they couldn't alert growers before as they would remove the crop.

The letter called for a suspension of spraying until an independent review was done and asked that they be provided with evidence of historical compliance to existing legislation.

According to Soci, dagga and other illegal drugs were a “difficult plague” to control worldwide.

She said drug abuse lead to other more serious crimes like rape, murder and robbery.

A statement said human life would not be in danger during spraying, only dagga plants would be affected and that glysophates were “not carcinogenic nor toxic to humans or animals”.

“Spraying has proven to be safe, cost-effective and a much larger area can be covered in a very short period of time. SAPS remain satisfied that our objective to keep this drug off the streets, is being adequately achieved through the process.” — davidm@dispatch.co.za

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