Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has reportedly argued for a continuation of the ban on cigarette sales, according to a News24 report.
The publication cited a “high-ranking insider” who said Dlamini-Zuma used “academic papers” to justify her argument during a meeting of the National Command Council (NCC).
She reportedly pushed for the bans to be in place until level 1 lockdown, saying lifting them would be “too much of a health risk.”
‘No final decision’
Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is said to have supported her, but Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize was reportedly swayed by counter-arguments.
According to the report, there was no final decision taken at the meeting, which was chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The ban on cigarette sales have been widely controversial. In April, Ramaphosa announced in an address to the nation that it would be lifted during level 4 lockdown.
However, a subsequent meeting of the NCC decided to extend the ban, sparking criticism from some sections of society and opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance (DA).
Possible court battles
The government is also facing the prospect of legal battles from lobby groups such as the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA).
FITA filed court papers earlier in May in a bid to have the ban lifted. It cited both Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma as respondents.
It argued that the government had not considered less “onerous” measures of achieving the lockdown’s purpose without undermining business rights.
FITA further argued that the ban “directly affects the freedoms previously enjoyed under law by approximately 11 million cigarette smokers and tobacco users in South Africa” as well as their physical and mental wellbeing.
In response, Dlamini-Zuma said in her court papers that there was nothing “sinister” about the ban’s extension and requested for more time to provide information on the decision-making process.
“For present purposes, however, I emphasise that the decision to promulgate the regulation was taken after careful consideration, not only of the submissions received, but also the relevant medical literature,” she added.
The government has been holding consultations with various stakeholders, including business, labour, political parties and religious groups, as it prepares to downgrade lockdown restrictions to level 3 by 1 June.