Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma lied in her justification for the continued ban against the sale of cigarettes and “President [Cyril] Ramaphosa has no choice but to fire her from his Cabinet”, the DA has alleged in its latest statement.
The party says Dlamini-Zuma’s responding affidavit in the court challenge which the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) lodged, does not correspond with the statements she made on 29 April when she addressed the nation.
During her address, Dlamini-Zuma shocked the country when she announced that the cigarette sales ban would remain in place on Level 4, after President Cyril Ramaphosa initially indicated that cigarette sales would be allowed on that level.
Dlamini-Zuma said the decision to open the sale of cigarettes was rescinded by Cabinet after they considered 2 000 public submissions supporting the ban.
She argued that, while Covid-19 was a relatively new disease, early studies supported the view that using tobacco products not only increased the risk of catching the disease but also the risk of contracting a more serious form of it.
“But her responding papers to a court challenge by the FITA paints an entirely different picture. This 4 000-page response – clearly meant to ‘spam’ the court – included all the public submissions she could find to support her actions.
“Plus, it seems, that many had nothing to do with cigarettes or tobacco at all. And the actual opposition to cigarette sales turns out to be a mere fraction of what she had claimed,” DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said.
The DA statement added that the court papers indicated that there were only 1 535 submissions and of these, 47.2% had nothing to do with cigarettes or smoking. There were 23.3% that were in favour of smoking and only 29.6% supported the ban.
This claim was also made by FITA, following Dlamini-Zuma’s claims in the affidavit.
“This amounts to just 454 submissions. Clearly, the minister was lying to South Africans in order to further her own pre-determined agenda,” Steenhuisen said.
FITA served the government with court papers in early May to challenge the state’s decision to retain the ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco product sales under Level 4 of the lockdown.
When SA moves to Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown from next month, cigarettes will still be banned.
British American Tobacco South Africa has joined the fight against the government’s regulation, saying that it will recommence urgent legal proceedings to challenge the government’s decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales during Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown.
“But the fact that Minister Dlamini-Zuma took the decision to make up a number of alleged supporting submissions and then lie to the people of South Africa in her briefing, should be grounds for immediate suspension from her position.
If the president wants to salvage some credibility for government’s response to this crisis, he cannot allow her to evade accountability on this,” Steenhuisen said.