Lessons on 'positive pushing' from Jozi's dagga dealers
Kulani Nkuna spent a day with some dagga dealers, who enlightened him on the art of positive pushing A coterie of herbal peddlers occupies the spot in a festival of puff-and-pass revelry. There are about half-a-dozen of them, all pushing the same product. The blunts are generous and are lit up at will, violating the dope dealer's cardinal rule: "Never get high on your own supply."Now and then clients happen by. Some take their wares away, while others prefer to light up then and there. The goods are stashed about 3m away under a rock or plant. The dealer simply goes and retrieves the required amount when a customer wants to make a purchase. There are no hand-to-hands à la The Wire , or lookout boys screaming "five-O!" when abogata (police) threaten to disturb the peace.The spot also functions as a "speed trap". This assembly of Rasta weed men is ideally located to encounter women en route to the supermarket or the institution of higher learning around the corner. The speed trap comes into effect when the "beautiful flowers of Azania" zip by. To refer to their antics as cat-calls would be insulting; "complimentary blessings" would be a more suitable description.story_article_left1"Hey Sistaa, be my lady we go praise the most high as one, empress," says one snymaan, as a lady ambles past. Not every woman is met with compliments. No sir, that honour is reserved for those in African print design threads and rock dreadlocks or natural hair.Lefty is a highly regarded snymaan among these men of consciousness. He is shuffling about, preferring not to sit still, because something in his aura is not quite right. I have been with him since 5am when he left his back room in Yeoville to go re-up at the market because his stash was running on empty. It is the dead of the cold front's assault on Jozi, but he has to make deliveries to some clients before they go to work. Delays are dangerous because the merchant might run out, or the police might raid the stock.The re-up is uneventful and we hop into a taxi to make deliveries to three corporate types looking for a buzz before starting their day. It is around 9am when we hit the spot. There is abundant energy in the air as the others begin to arrive with stories about the previous night. For the most part, the morning consists of waiting for customers or a phone call requesting a delivery.Lefty is an interesting confluence of rasta, hip-hop head and kasi jita. His rich dreadlocks wrapped under a hoodie are a testament to his affiliation with Emperor Haile Selassie and Jah the most high, and his skinny jeans and Air Jordans are in sync with today's breed of rap emcee. His speech flits from Rastafari to African-American slang and tsotsi taal."I have to listen to my energy, so if I feel off then I won't slang on that day," Lefty says, explaining his unease at the spot."It's an aura, man. I sell it because it's a spiritual thing. But something is not right, maybe dem police boys be staking out the spot as we speak. I have to respond to nature, because I'm selling weed, I'm working with nature."Another blunt does the rounds and Lefty relaxes a bit."When I was a young 'un, and learning how to be a pusher, an older head told me about the awareness necessary in what I am dealing with," Lefty continues.story_article_right2"I am selling a herb and that is something that needs to be respected. If you go to a place to get it, people might not give it to you to sell if it's not in your blood to sell it. If you don't have the blessing. Selling weed is about humility and understanding exactly what you are dealing with. You are not just a dispensary, but more like a doctor. I am somebody who can take care of somebody else's mindset. It's about the healing part."It's almost 5pm and the day has sped by without too much intrigue. Lefty is heading to the studio to work on his hip-hop album as the rest push on in the cold for an extra hour to catch the after-work crowd.The easy nature of their operation means that they are susceptible to even the simplest of undercover detective work. Lefty almost spent time behind bars when an officer posed as a new client, only to arrest him after the sale. But on the way to the police station he furnished the cops with cold-drink money and he was released "on his own recognisance".Some of his colleagues have not been so lucky and have spent real time in prison. This, however, does not deter any of them. They serve a higher purpose."You see faya, we can't stop what we are doing, faya," Lefty says, adopting the patois accent fully."We as black people, we admire self-reliance. Self-reliance means that a man is responsible and can take care of the family. Man can maintain for the wifey and the little youths. If you see a man in the streets, you can take out something from the pocket and bless him with the dalla. We resemble of the most high, you know."