By Toyin Owoseje, CNN
The Malawi government has defended its decision to invite former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson to become the country’s official cannabis ambassador after he was convicted of rape in the 1990s.
Malawi legalized the cultivation and processing of cannabis for medicinal purposes last year, although it did not decriminalize recreational use.
This week, Malawi’s Agriculture Minister Lobin Low sent a letter to Tyson – who was involved in the US cannabis industry through various ventures – asking him to become the face of the country’s cannabis industry in an effort to attract investors and create more opportunities for tourism .
The Department didn’t say whether Tyson, who became the youngest heavyweight champion in history in 1986, had accepted his offer.
CNN has reached out to representatives from Tyson and the US Cannabis Association, which the department said was involved in the deal, for comment.
The move has sparked controversy, with the Malawian think tank accusing the Center for Public Accountability (CPA) of ignoring Tyson’s previous convictions.
The 55-year-old boxer was jailed in 1992 after raping Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America contestant, in a hotel room. In 1995 he was released.
Kondwani Munthali, acting director of the CPA, said in a statement sent to CNN on Friday that the appointment of a convicted rapist was “wrong”, adding, “Yes, he paid his debt for three years while he was in prison, but we say he is the face of a nation is more than Reformation. We would like (a) less controversial character than Tyson. “
However, Agriculture Department spokesman Gracian Lungu denied the criticism in a statement to CNN on Friday, saying, “Malawi as a nation believes Mr. Tyson is a right and Reformed person since he was paroled.”
Lungu added that “the moral appeal of some quarters to continue holding Mr. Tyson on a wall of moral ineptitude does not hold water.”
Gender Minister Patricia Kaliati confirmed Lungu’s views.
She told CNN on Friday that she saw no problem with the government’s choice of ambassador because Tyson was a prominent businessman with a good knowledge of the cannabis business.
“It’s about the business (and) the economic business of cannabis,” said Kaliati, adding, “We’re looking for the celebrities, the decision-makers, who can say something that is internationally recognized.”
She said his role would be business-centered and “he will not work with the gender minister on issues related to women and children”.
The CNN Wire
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