The relative of a Cape Town man arrested on charges of cultivating and dealing in cannabis is fuming after claiming a man purporting to be a police officer asked him for R8,000 to make the docket go away.
The relative feels the supposed police officer is taking advantage of the uncertainty over how much is permitted for private use.
This after the Constitutional Court’s recent judgment that parts of the law relating to cannabis cultivation and use are inconsistent with the constitutional right to personal privacy, and therefore an adult’s right to cultivate and use it in private and for private consumption.
“It’s almost as though they are trying to make money because no one knows the situation,” said the relative, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He also questioned whether targeting smaller growers was to eliminate them and pave the way for larger companies hoping to get licences to grow cannabis for medicinal use.
Furious at this alleged attempt at extortion, the relative played along, but also reported it to Cape Town police.
The accused was originally arrested in Cape Town and accused of being in possession of plants and equipment worth more than R1 million.
The relative said while the accused was in custody, a supposed police officer called him from a cellphone number and asked for money to make the case go away.
This “officer” also handed a phone to the accused to authenticate that he was in contact with him in custody.
“He was speaking from a jail cell,” said the relative.
The relative was asked for R1 000 but it went up to R8 000.
The man’s case is not at the pleadings stage yet and he is currently out on bail.
Before the accused appeared in court, his relative said he was bombarded by messages and phone calls allegedly demanding money to make the case go away.
He added bank details and a name was provided and one of the texts instructed him to: “Put that [what] u got right now [sic]”.
He said he did not pay the money and is co-operating with a police investigation into this aspect.
The person on the other end of the line, who answered the number provided, denied the allegation strenuously when contacted.
“He’s lying,” he told News24.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said: “Please be advised that this is an ongoing investigation and due to its nature, this office is unable to divulge any information.”
Sontaga Seisa, the acting spokesperson for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, said it had not yet received the complaint, but there were other law enforcement agencies obliged to investigate, such as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks).
The Hawks said the case was still with the Western Cape police.
News24 reported previously the Constitutional Court in September 2018 suspended the order of invalidity of impugned sections of the law and gave Parliament two years to update legislation relating to private cannabis cultivation and use to be in line with the right to privacy.
Repeated questions on what the permissible amount is to cultivate to use have not been answered by the police.
The Western Cape police have also not responded to a question on whether a post doing the rounds on the internet purporting to be an official document guiding the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on this is authentic.
This document advises that the NPA and police should focus on determining whether cultivation or possession was strictly for personal use, in private, by an adult.
Said the concerned relative: “At this rate, they can go and arrest every granny that is growing a bush.”