President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma from criticism over the government’s decision to extend the ban on cigarette sales.
In his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa said it was “wrong to suggest that there are Ministers or a President doing and saying whatever they want on this matter.”
He added that when he announced the lifting of the ban on 23 April, it was based on the view of the National Command Council (NCC) and was subject to further consultations.
The President explained, “After careful consideration and discussion, the NCCC reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by Cabinet and announced by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on 29 April extended the prohibition.
“This was a collective decision and the public statements by both myself and the Minister were done on behalf of, and mandated by, the collective I lead.”
The ban’s extension has generated intense debate among observers and social media, with some arguing that Dlamini-Zuma “overruled” Ramaphosa.
British American Tobacco SA (BAT SA) also gave Dlamini-Zuma, who is by law mandated to gazette state of disaster regulations, until 10h00 on Monday to explain the decision or face legal action.
However, Ramaphosa insisted that the government has “carefully considered” every regulation it has put in place.
He said, “Along the way there has been consultation with medical experts, various constituencies and different industries. We have been guided by international bodies and the experience of other countries.”
The President said dozens of countries have implemented similar measures such as curfews and limitations on movements, including limited hours during which people can exercise.
He appealed to South Africans to continue adhering to the regulations in the same way they did during the first five weeks of the lockdown.
Ramaphosa said, “The speed with which the virus spreads and the number of people who are ultimately infected will be determined by what we do now.
“That is why the easing of the lockdown needs to be gradual and cautious. It is for this reason that many regulations need to remain in place and why it is absolutely essential that people observe them.
“I know how difficult this is and I understand the concern that many of our compatriots have about how these regulations are interfering and limiting their rights. But all this is necessary. Our overriding objective is the preservation of life.”