Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen has taken a dim view of the government’s decision to maintain its ban on cigarette sales.
Soon after Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the decision on Wednesday evening, Steenhuisen posted a picture of her with self-confessed tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti on Twitter.
He accompanied the image with the caption, “I know somebody who is going to be smiling all the way to the bank after his favourite minister shut down the legal tobacco sales tonight.”
‘No relationship with Mazzotti’
Sunday Times first published the image in November 2017, a month before the African National Congress (ANC) held its 54th national conference. Dlamini-Zuma was running for ANC President.
Her spokesperson at the time, Vukani Mthintso, said she had no “direct or substantive” relationship with Mazzotti and his associates.
“She has never approached him for any assistance, nor has he approached her and offered assistance with her campaign. The two occasions she met him were chance meetings, where there were other persons at the same event,” Mthintso said.
During her media briefing yesterday, Dlamini-Zuma said the National Command Council had taken the “collective” decision to maintain the ban on cigarette sales purely for health reasons to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Ban is ‘draconian’
In a statement, Steenhuisen however said the ban and other restrictions are “draconian” and show that the government is treating citizens “like children.”
He added, “The common thread running through all the restrictions is government’s fundamental lack of trust in the people of South Africa, who are being treated as children rather than adults.
“People are not being trusted with data or empowered with any reasonable degree of personal decision-making.”
Meanwhile, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) announced on Wednesday evening that it wold be taking the government to court over the ban.
A tweet from FITA’s twitter account stated, “Consulting with our attorneys and senior counsel on the urgent court application first thing in the morning. Let a court of law adjudicate on this issue once and for all.”
Speaking to SAfm on Thursday morning, FITA chairperson Sinenhanhla Mnguni added, “We are consulting with our legal team on a way forward. We are going to court. We are making plans to prepare our legal challenge.”