If you smoke weed, by now you most probably are aware that come Saturday 12th September, brethren and sistren will be congregating at Mundawanga botanical gardens to memorialize the life of late reggae superstar Peter Tosh. You also must be aware that Zambian Green party leader Peter Sinkamba will be officiating at the event.
Peter Sinkamba is to Zambia what Peter Tosh was to Jamaica in as far as fighting for the legalization of weed is concerned. However, whereas Sinkamba uses a political party as his platform, Tosh used a musical band.
The use of marijuana is as old as humanity itself. For its medicinal, religious and recreational properties, marijuana has been used throughout human history.
Just like in many other countries, weed smoking and trafficking in Zambia is prohibited. As such consumption of weed is neither openly engaged in nor confessed to. It was therefore quite mystifying when Peter Sinkamba made it a serious campaign topic in 2015. Sinkamba has been an ardent advocate for the legalization of (medicinal) marijuana making it his identifying mark.
Forty years ago, his namesake Peter of Jamaica also found himself fighting for the legalization of marijuana. With a fiery temper and an intimidating personality, Peter Tosh was raised by his grandmother, though you would because of the foregoing mistakenly think that he raised himself. He found solace against the degenerative, oppressive and squalor conditions of Jamaica in a fantasy world enhanced by the usage of marijuana, driven by his political theme of black emancipation and inspired by his rastafarai beliefs.
Peter Tosh teamed up with Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley in the 1960s to form the band known as the Wailers. As a group the Wailers toiled for years with little success and only had their international breakthrough in 1972 after Island records president Chris Blackwell released their first album “Catch a fire”. With this international stardom however came inflated egos. Peter left the band and set out on a solo career. He felt that this was the only way that all the matters weighing heavily on his heart would be offloaded musically. His breakthrough as a solo artist came around 1976 when he released his first album. The title? “Legalize it.” He meant weed, obviously.
Of course “Legalize it” was banned by the government right away and Peter was beaten up by the police for his efforts. But this made him even angrier and harder to deal with.
Peter’s slow, deep, engrossing and hypnotizing reggae style continued rallying the population around him and against their government. Eventually he came to represent what the government feared the most- a popular, fearless and brutally frank voice for the masses. Oftentimes he would get arrested and beaten up by police. Even though he knew that he was digging his own grave with his confrontational attitude, Peter did not adjust his course. At one concert meant to advocate for peace in Jamaica, he lit up a joint on stage, with the Prime minister in attendance. After smoking he sang “Legalize it” and also gave the politicians in attendance a tongue lashing of their lives. The audience roared in applause.
One of the celebrities in attendance that night was rock star Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. So mystified by the performance of Tosh that he signed him on his label. “Bush Doctor” album came out afterwards in which the two sang a duet called “Don’t Look Back.”
In response the state, using the police arrested him again. But this time they beat him to within inches from death. It took months for his cracked scalp to heal in hospital, but after that he almost always performed his music on stage with a weed joint in his hand.
The state had to stop him one way or another. Talking to him wasn’t working. Arresting him wasn’t doing it either. Even breaking his scalp had no impact.His cult-like rising popularity would only be curtailed by an assassin’s bullet to his head on September 11th, 1987.That was the man that the world will be remembering on Saturday in a festive scenario.
Forty years on, Peter Sinkamba must be happy that the world and its governments are more tolerant to rebellious and daring opinions such as his. He must be happy that he can stand on a political platform and openly advocate for the legalizing of weed without the police cracking his scalp in retaliation.
Fortunately he realizes that great men before him paved the way for his freedom to express himself even on a dangerous subject line.Foremost among these great men was the reggae maestro, human rights activist, political philosopher and rebel. Peter Tosh
By Besa Mwaba