The big ciggie war: Ramaphosa defends Dlamini-Zuma, state prepared to go to court

04 May 2020 - 13:12 By Cebelihle Bhengu
A tobacco association has threatened legal action over the ban on the sale of cigarettes during the national lockdown.
A tobacco association has threatened legal action over the ban on the sale of cigarettes during the national lockdown.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Since government announced last week that the temporary ban on the sale of cigarettes would continue, smokers have condemned the move and major players in the tobacco industry have threatened legal action.

Police have been attacked by protesters who demanded alcohol and cigarettes, and law enforcement officials have arrested suspects who have been implicated in the smuggling and illegal sales of the goods forbidden under level 4 lockdown.  

Here's what has happened during the cigarette battle:

Ramaphosa says ban was a collective decision

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the decision to continue the ban on the sale of cigarettes under level 4 was a collective decision.

He responded to public speculation that co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma “defied” him after he had announced one week ago that cigarettes would be sold under eased lockdown rules. 

“After careful consideration and discussion, the national coronavirus command council  reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by the cabinet and announced by minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on April 29 extended the prohibition,” TimesLIVE quoted the president as saying in his weekly newsletter.

Government stands firm

Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu said the government will not be pressured into lifting the ban on the sale of cigarettes. He said government was willing to take its case to court as it has valid reasons for insisting on the ban.

“There is no possibility of a midway agreement that accommodates them and us. We believe that it is the right thing to do. I don't see any of us agreeing on the measures the other party has taken.

“We will make our case in court. We believe we have very good reasons,” he told Sunday Times.

Police attacked as protesters demand booze and smokes

Police officers were attacked and their vehicles damaged during protests in Fraserburg in the Northern Cape when community members demanded the sale of alcohol and cigarettes over the weekend. 

Speaking to TimesLIVE on Monday, Brig Mohale Ramatseba said the protesters also looted a tuck shop and grocery store, resulting in the loss of about R100,000 worth of stock. 

Illicit alcohol, drugs and cigarettes on sale

A 46-year old woman from Kraaifontein near Cape Town was arrested by police on Thursday last week for possession of presumed stolen property, dealing in liquor and drugs as well as contravention of the Disaster Management Act.

Western Cape police spokesperson Col Andrè Traut told TimesLIVE the suspect was arrested during a police operation during which they seized more than 1,300 bottles of liquor worth about R200,000, the illegal drug Tik and more than R40,000 in cash.

More than 493,000 sign petition against ban

A petition launched by Bev McClean ahead of the initial lockdown has garnered support from more than 493,000 who people demand a lift on the ban of cigarettes. In its description, McClean cites health concerns among the reasons for demanding a review of the regulation.

“Withdrawal from nicotine has serious effects on a lot of people and is especially elevated because of the stress and fear happening in our country. It causes depression and anxiety and because we are on lockdown, most people will lash out and maybe even hurt loved ones unintentionally,” read the concerns raised by McClean.

A man from Cape Town got creative in his efforts to beat the #SALockdown ban on alcohol sales by sending a drone to his friend to collect a beer. Morgan O'Kennedy used a rope with an attachment to send to his friend to collect the beer can.