EXPOSED: The Senator who sells dagga drink



BY : EUGENE DUBE

EZULWINI - Senator Tony Sibandze, a legilastor linked to the powerful and politically connected Monsoor family of the Buy&Save Supermarkert confirmed to our investigation team that he was amongst a political elite dealing in dagga products.

This was after he was questioned by a team of investigative journalists from this publication after it was discovered that his bottle store at Ezulwini was selling dagga energy drinks. It’s public knowledge that the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) normally conducts raids and destroy dagga fields owned by the poor and vulnerable Emaswati while protecting the rich and powerful who are dealing with the same illegal cannabis. The canabis legalizations remains a hot debate in the Kingdom of Eswatini with allegations emerging that the rich and powerful were secretly developing strategies to take over the business and sabotage the poor.

An independent investigation by this Swaziland News has uncovered how a group of powerful people in the country are dealing with dagga and selling its products with impunity. Senator Sibandze’s First Choice Liquor Company (Pty) Ltd trading as E-Tops Bottle Store was found to be selling a Cannabis energy drink. The liquor company is located in almost all the premises of the Buy$Save Supermakert and it has been confirmed that the cannabis energy drink was available in these outlests. When reached for comments, the Senator said this product was available in Etops outlets around the country including other outlets. “I can confirm that we are selling this Cannabis energy drink in many of our outlets, we sourced it from a supplier who is a Liswati citizen. It is not only our bottle store that sells this product - as it is available even with our competitors” said the Senator. But former MP Saladin Magagula, the Chairman of the Eswatini Cannabis Association expressed serious concerns regarding the availability of the product within the local shops without a legal framework that regulates these products. Speaking to this Swaziland News, the Chairman said it was highly dangerous for consumers to be made to buy this product at the time when the regulation of such products are being debated in Parliament. “I am aware of this Cannabis energy drink, however, I have a serious problem with it in the absence of a clear regulatory framework that stipulates how such products would be monitored in the interest of the consumers” said the ex-MP. The Cannabis Association Chairman further expressed concerns that government was promoting illicit dagga dealings by demanding E1million licence fee from citizens who want to legally deal with dagga products. “A liquor license is not expensive, then what is special about this cannabis? The Government should not force people to engage in illicit dagga dealings by demanding more money for the licence” he said.

The supplier of the product Zithulele Dlamini said the energy drink was healthy and could be consumable even by Christians.

“It’s non-alcoholic, even Christians and Pastors can drink it without a problem. We are supplying many major outlets including Etops. It is sourced from first world countries like Netherlands and there is no harm for consumers” he said. But Bishop Steven Masilela, the President of the Swaziland Conference of Churches (SCC) said Parliament should investigate the product to ascertain if it has no negative effects to consumers. “As a church we request Parliament to investigate this issue and establish if this product has no negative effects to consumers. We will also conduct our own investigation into this matter” he said. When reached for comments, Minister of Health Lizzy Nkosi said she was aware of the Cannabis energy drink that circulates in local shops. Responding to questions from this publication concerning the legal status of the energy drink, the Minister became evasive and uttered a different view. “I am aware of this energy drink, however I would discourage people from consuming it, as well as I advise them to refrain from taking drinks which contain sugar” she said.