The African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) has defended Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma against “attacks” over the ban on cigarette sales.
In a statement on Sunday, the organisation said while it respected freedom of speech, it could not “be silent when other people are spitting their misogynist and racist venom bile [sic] on Minister Dlamini-Zuma.”
It added, “Minister Dlamini-Zuma’s biggest sin was to announce the [National Command Council (NCC)] decisions in particular that selling of cigarettes and tobacco related products remains prohibited in level 4 of the lockdown.”
Cigarette ban ‘not an individual decision’
The ANCWL was a strong backer of Dlamini-Zuma in the run-up to the ANC’s 54th national conference in 2017. She was gunning for the position of ANC President, but eventually lost to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Some observers have suggested that Dlamini-Zuma “overruled” Ramaphosa, who had earlier announced that cigarette sales would be permitted under level 4 of the lockdown.
However, the ANCWL said while individual members of the NCC are afforded an opportunity to state their arguments, the NCC’s final decisions are binding on all members and “cannot be reduced to a decision of an individual.”
It added, “The ANCWL is convinced that singling out Minister Dr Dlamini-Zuma from the leadership collective serving in the NCC is a well-calculated move to create an impression that she overruled the decision of NCC and she is undermining the Chairperson of NCC President Ramaphosa.”
‘Discipline Tito Mboweni’
British American Tobacco (BAT) SA has given Dlamini-Zuma, who by law is the Minister mandated to gazette national disaster regulations, until Monday to reverse the ban on cigarette sales or face legal action. The ANCWL said it would “consider lobbying progressive forces to join as friends of court.”
It also criticised Finance Minister Tito Mboweni for publicly expressing his opposition to the ban’s continuation. Mboweni made the comments during a virtual briefing with Parliament’s finance committees last week.
He said, “I know I’m losing a lot of revenue in the middle of being under pressure to spend, but nevertheless that’s a decision of Cabinet and I have to fall in line if want to [continue as] a member of the executive.”
However, the ANCWL called on Ramaphosa to discipline NCC members “who fail to persuade their colleagues in the meeting and decide to go out to canvass their personal views in public.”
It added, “It is a high level ill-discipline [sic] for Minister Tito Mboweni to announce publicly his personal view on the selling of cigarettes and tobacco-related products after the NCC has taken a final decision.
“His utterances strengthen the allegations that some members of NCC leak details of the discussions from NCC. NCC should not tolerate any reckless, divisive and irresponsible behaviour from any its members or any member of government.”