Tabak – ‘n formidabele geskiedenis

Kom ons wees eerlik met mekaar – oor die tabakbedryf is daar geen draadsitters nie. Daar is voorstanders en daar is teenstanders. Elkeen redeneer met passie en elkeen het ‘n duidelike standpunt.

Tabak het ‘n ryk geskiedenis uit ons omgewing en ons kyk graag daarna. Christoforo Colombo het in 1492 met sy ontdekkingsreis na Amerika vir die eerste keer met hierdie plant kennis gemaak. Tabak het meer as enige plant die verbeelding van mense aangegryp.

            Tabak was destyds gesien as ‘n plant wat geneeskundige eienskappe het. Daar bestaan omtrent geen kwaal waarvoor tabak nog nie as geneesmiddel gebruik is nie. Die Fransman, Jean Nicot, aan wie die botaniese naam, nicotiana, toegedig is, het snuif as behandeling voorgeskryf vir hoofpyne. Tydens die “Swart Dood” in Engeland was skoolkinders verplig om in die oggende te rook in die geloof dat dit hulle teen die pes sal beskerm. In Frankryk kon tabak aanvanklik net op mediese voorskrif verkry word.

Nog voor Jan van Riebeeck se koms na ons land, was die Hottentotte reeds goed bekend met tabak omdat die Portugese seevaarders dit as ruilmiddel gebruik het. Van Riebeeck het gou besef dat tabak een van die belangrikste ruilmiddels is om met die Hottentotte handel te dryf. In 1657 het hy ‘n deel van die Kompanjiestuin afgestaan vir tabakverbouing, maar die Suidoostewind het die plante in flarde gewaai. Die eerste Vryburgers kon later daarin slaag om tabak dieper land-in te produseer.

Die Groot Trek het tabak na die binneland gebring en dit is opgeteken dat daar reeds in 1854 met tabak by die Magaliesberge geboer is – op die plaas van ene Ferdinand Pieterse.

Tussen 1840 en 1850 het tabak in ons omgewing gevestig geraak by die Heksrivier, Sterkstroom en die Krokodilrivier. Die vrugbaarste spoelgrond is gebruik en daarby is dit ook nog goed met kraalmis bemes. Vir daardie pioniers was pyp, tabak en tonteldoos net so belangrik as sy roer en perd. Die tabak is hoofsaaklik in die vorm van roltabak verwerk. ‘n Swaar tipe tabak met lang blare, wat later as die Swazi-tabak sou bekendstaan, is hiervoor gekweek.

Die boere het natuurlik bietjie meer produseer as wat nodig was en het gewoonlik ‘n paar rolle tabak met smouse geruil vir kruideniersware. Hulle het selfs tabak na die Botswana van vandag, met ossewaens te neem om dit te ruil vir vetstertskape en bokke.

Die ontdekking van goud en diamante het ‘n omwenteling in die tabakbedryf meegebring. Die stedelike bevolking van Johannesburg en Kimberley het gekerfde tabak en sigarette verkies en die kweekproses het daarby aangepas. Nuwe kultivars is aangeplant, die droogproses is verander en die nuwe markte moes voorsien word.

Die uitbreek van die Tweede Vryheidsoorlog in 1899 het die totale ineenstorting van die tabakbedryf veroorsaak. Die boere het op kommande gegaan. Plase het verwaarloos geraak en huise en skure is afgebrand. Na die vrede van Vereeniging in 1902 kon die boere weer na hulle plase terugkeer en alles moes weer van voor af opgebou word.

In 1904 is in die Kroondal omgewing stewig met tabakverbouing begin en onder leiding van GW Otterman is die eerste koöperasie en voorloper van die MKTV gestig. Die begin van ‘n baie groot organisasie wat hierdie omgewing vir dekades ekonomies laat groei het. In die tyd wat daarop gevolg het is tabak in alle vorme verbou en in die markte geplaas. Die rook van tabak het ook verskeie modes tot gevolg gehad. In die Franse hofhouding van destyds was die rookgewoonte slegs deur ‘n eksklusiewe groep mense gebruik. Die Engelse het spesiale ‘smoking rooms’ ingerig vir rokers en selfs alle openbare vevoerdienstes het voorsiening gemaak vir rokers en nie-rokers,

Tabak is ook destyds as ‘n wonderkruid gehuldig. Die rooihuide het dit eerste as medisyne gebruik Vars afgeplukte tabakblare is voorgeskryf vir hoofpyne, maagkrampe, jig, koliek en histerie. Tabakekstrak is vir hoes, asma, wurms en hardlywigheid aanbeveel. Verdikte tabakekstrak is as salf vir swere gebruik. So praat die voorstanders van tabak.

Die teenstanders sê dit veroorsaak longkanker en hartkwale asook swak bloedsomloop. Sekere kerkgenootskappe sê dis sonde om tabak te gebruik. Die regering het dit ten doel om die gebruik van tabak totaal te verban en het reeds met verskeie wette vorendag gekom. Die vraag is of hulle daarin gaan slaag. Die voorstanders van rook sê hulle doen dit eie keuse. Advertensies soos destyds mag nie meer verskyn nie en tabakverpakkings moet waarskuwings daarop hê.

Daar is ‘n wereldwye aanslag op die gebruik van tabak en almal reageer heftig daaroor – die positiewe en die negatiewe mense. Die positiewe mense sê daar is ander meer negatiewe goed soos lugbesoedeling, dagga, dwelms en so meer. Hulle industrie is ‘n edele een en het ‘n roemryke geskiedenis. Die negatiewe mense sê dis twak.

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