Our Legal Corner
Dagga – To be or not to be
On Tuesday the 7th of November ten Constitutional Court judges heard argument by various parties on whether or not to confirm the Western Cape High Court judgement delivered earlier this year, which declared the legislation prohibiting dagga possession, use, cultivation and dealing to be unconstitutional to the extent that it does not allow for the possession, cultivation and use of dagga within the privacy of one’s private dwelling.
The Western Cape High Court had found that the privacy rights of dagga smokers and users were infringed by the prohibiting legislation and gave parliament 24 months to enact new legislation. That order is of no effect until the constitutional court confirms it as is or varies it. The opposing Minister of Justice and Constitutional development and other government departments appealed the judgement. This case had been brought by the well-known Rastafarian Mr Gareth Prince (and others) who last unsuccessfully challenged the prohibition of dagga in the constitutional Court in 2002, on the ground of religious freedom.
The hearing on Tuesday the 7th of November before the Constitutional Court followed closely on the heels of the now infamous “trial of the plant” dagga legalisation case by the so-called dagga couple in the Pretoria High Court which was postponed on 18th August 2017 after three weeks of evidence. Doctors for Life which is the eighth defendant in the trial of the plant, was admitted as First Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) before the Constitutional Court. Doctors for Life supported the appeal of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and various other government departments, against the judgement and its confirmation, and argued that the Western Cape High Court had erred in significant respects in coming to its decision.
It is common knowledge that the use of dagga is harmful, but the pro-dagga users argue that it is not for the State nor society to dictate what is good or bad for them. Mr Prince and the parties supporting confirmation of the Western Cape High Court order left court feeling rather confident, notwithstanding the criticisms levelled by the State and Doctors for Life against the High Court judgment. A central theme of this criticism was that the Western Cape High Court had come to its decision without properly considering scientific, medical and social evidence regarding the extent of the harms of dagga use and justifying the prohibition of dagga. Further criticism was the High Court’s failure to properly consider children in a private setting.
While much of the arguments advanced and submissions made centred around legal technical issues there were lighter moments when justices asked questions about what would be considered to be legitimate quantities of dagga to use and be in possession of, and how privacy was to be understood in rural environments where one does not find boundary fences and the like. The courtroom was packed with colourful Rastafarians and other culture groups who complain that the prohibition of dagga infringes on their human rights. Apart from the representatives of Doctors for Life, their legal team, and the legal team for the government departments, support for the position that dagga is a social ill deserving of prohibition, was conspicuous by its absence.
Notwithstanding the confidence exhibited by the pro-dagga lobby of persons present at the hearing, the Constitutional Court will be calling for further written submissions from the parties on whether it should stay these proceedings pending the outcome of the Pretoria trial, where at least 16 expert witnesses will testify and be cross examined on the extent of the harmfulness and justification for the prohibition of dagga. In the three weeks that this trial ran in Pretoria the evidence of only two expert witnesses was led and cross-examined.
The facts underlying the “trial of the plant” are that the first two plaintiffs, the so-called dagga couple, were arrested for possession of 1.87 kg of dagga. The third plaintiff was arrested in consequence of not only possession of dagga but cultivating dagga on a scale beyond what he alleges, namely for personal medicinal purposes. According to the standards of almost all countries and American states (which remain a minority in the world) where dagga possession and use has been legalised or decriminalised, possession of this quantity of dagga would still render them liable to prosecution and possible incarceration in most of those countries/states.
The plaintiffs in the Pretoria trial have thus far evaded the factual basis for their constitutional challenge to the legislation prohibiting dagga by leading the evidence of their experts first. This approach is not only evasive but also complicates the work of the legal teams for the State and Doctors for Life in testing the evidence of the expert witnesses because they are not giving their evidence pursuant to a factual basis. This is Doctors for Life’s biggest case to date and will cost an estimated R2 million for which a major fundraising effort is ongoing. The advocates for Doctors for Life and the State departments have been unfairly and maliciously vilified by the pro dagga media. Doctors for Life believes that the legalisation of dagga and its resistance is another case of social importance to come before the South African courts. Dates for the resumption of the Pretoria trial will be set soon.
DFL’s Legal Team
Pornography – The Sad Facts
Pornography has been declared a public health crisis in many states and countries. We cannot close our eyes to the devastating consequences it has on individuals and societies. The statistics are overwhelming.
The Proven Men Porn Survey, conducted by the Barna Group in 2014, found that 64 percent of U.S. men view pornography monthly, with that figure increasing to 79 percent for men between the ages of 18-30. Also, 34 percent of women age 18-30 view pornography monthly. 55 percent of men of 18-30 said they first encountered pornography before the age of 12, while 25 percent of women did.
One pornography website found that it had 64 million global visitors per day, and that nearly 92 billion videos had been viewed in the past year.
The industry feeding these habits is correspondingly large. In 2006, the whole sex industry was estimated to be about $13 billion. (1)
Lawmakers in the USA in the states of South Dakota, Virginia and Tennessee have affirmed the public harm of pornography. (1)
It’s hard to deny that it is wrecking marriages and that people are enslaved to it. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in a 2003 survey found that in 56 percent of divorce cases, one spouse had an obsessive interest in online pornography. A study published in 2016 found that divorce rates nearly doubled for men and nearly tripled for women who began watching pornography during their marriage. (1)
It is especially our children who are the most vulnerable. They need to be protected from this harmful practice.
The sad fact however, is that some people who are supposed to protect the children are wolves in sheep’s clothing. If you follow the news you will find that the many people standing trail for pornography are often teachers, fathers, grandfathers, pastors, cabinet ministers, social workers, bishops, law enforcement officers, nursery school caretakers and the like.
Something is drastically wrong in our societies and we must to take a good look at ourselves. Are we part of the problem or are we part of the solution?
First and foremost we thank God for providing in the way that He does. This project is very special and important to every one involved. So much has happened this year but we would like to mention a few special moments…
Our orphan project really appreciated the donation of venison we received! This provides for the children for a good couple of months! Our team was so excited to process and package the meat and even more enthusiastic to present it to our centers during the food delivery. Meat is expensive these days and we were thankful to receive such a large quantity of healthy protein!
One of our centers has been struggling with vehicle problems for a while. Imagine the relief and excitement on their faces the day a brand new vehicle arrived! Not only that, but the children received gift bags full of treats! The team that made this day possible also cooked sausages and chicken for everyone to enjoy and played soccer with the children. It warmed our hearts to see the caregivers and children sing, dance and rejoice over the happenings on this day.
We recently received new cupboards, wall paint and curtains for our Malelane center after the building was seriously damaged during a storm. The building is still in the process of being restored and we are grateful for every bit of aid that comes our way!
Two of our centers are struggling because water resources are scarce and the caregivers often have to walk long distances to fetch water to prepare meals for the children. These centers may have to close down because of the water shortages and our desire is to drill boreholes to prevent that happening. Please keep us in mind and in prayer.
Aid to Africa
Mrs Angelika Böhmer
This was our third outreach at Inhambane hospital over the past four years and we have built good relationships with the local staff during this period. On our first outreach we were met with a degree of mistrust but this time we experienced a hearty welcome and excellent cooperation from our old friends there. Unfortunately, since our last outreach the local surgeon has left. This makes our intervention even more urgent because no cataract surgeries are done on a regular basis at the hospital anymore and the backlog becomes increasingly larger over time.
Our team consisted of surgeon Dr. J. Pons from the Good Shepherd Hospital in Swaziland assisted by two of his ophthalmic nurses and an administrative lady, four helpers from our clinic at Zavora and two of us from South Africa.
We spent long hours in theatre and were able to do 130 surgeries in five days. The team from Swaziland was very well organized for this mammoth task and it worked like a well-oiled machine! We thank them for their hard work and commitment and financial and other contributions!
I’d like to mention a few highlights: Teresa* (age 34) had become blind due to cataracts some time ago. As a result, her husband left her even though she was pregnant. Her 9 year old son had to do many of the chores and even tried to do some jobs to earn a little bit of money. Life was very difficult for them. After her daughter was born she had to take care of her without being able to see and so a community worker brought her to the hospital. The morning after the surgery there was quite a commotion among the patients and spectators when for the first time this young mother was able to see her little baby who was then already about four months old. It’s easy to imagine what a difference the outreach made in the life of this little family.
One of the patients who came for screening was Paolo*, a boy of 10 years old who had a cataract in his left eye. The hospital made an anaesthetist available so that Dr Pons could operate. Children of this age cannot have surgery under local anaesthetic and on other outreaches we have to send them away. We were very happy that we could help him and the next morning he was overjoyed when he could see.
Another highlight for the team was our accommodation and we want to express our heartfelt thanks to the people who made it available to us.
Much more could be said but space is limited. We thank God that we could do the work and that the gospel was preached. We pray His blessing on both.
* Names changed for privacy reasons.
Aid to Africa, Personal Testimony
by Miss Mirjam Rüttimann
During the weekend of the 28th to the 30th of July 2017 I was on duty at the maternity ward of the DFL clinic in Zavora and was called to the ward for a delivery. During this time Dr. Deborah and a friend of hers, Rebecca from Germany, were visiting us. They had told me to call them if there were labour cases and so I called them that evening.
While we were busy preparing for the delivery another lady arrived. We only have one bed for deliveries so I put her into the maternity ward. When I checked how far she was with the labour I realized that the baby was laying feet first and this by full cervical dilatation! That’s a fearful diagnosis if one is out in the bush because it means that the lady needs a caesarean immediately. The chances that the baby would survive labour with feet first was not very high. I decided to immediately transfer her to the hospital in Inharrime but as we were preparing the transfer she started to push and the next moment the baby’s legs were out. So we had no chance to transfer her to the hospital and I could just pray that the child would survive the labour. I took the child by the legs and the next moment the child was born. The baby was crying and everything was fine.
Then as we were waiting for the placenta we noticed that something was wrong. I checked again and found that there was another baby coming. It was twins!! I have never had a twin labour in my life, only through a caesarean. Everything went so well that we only can thank God! He is the best doctor and with Him everything is possible.
Acts 4:12 (NIV) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
A policeman once found a little boy crying heartbreakingly on a street corner. When he enquired about the reason for his sorrow, the little boy explained that he couldn’t find his way home and that he was lost. The policeman asked the little boy if he could remember his address or his dad’s phone number but he couldn’t. The policeman thought for a while and then asked the little boy if there was anything near his house that he could describe which might help him get the little boy home. The little boy thought for a while and then he answered: “Mister, next to my house there’s this big church, and it’s got a big cross on the top. And if you can lead me to that cross, I can find my way home.” Finding our way home means finding the cross first.
Next month we will be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. May the Christ Child truly be born in our hearts to make this festive season a real blessing to us.