The hottest topical issue of our lockdown so far has been the status of cigarette sales in South Africa. First they were outlawed, then given the green-light, only to be pulled from the shelves again. In the middle of this controversy is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who announced the u-turn almost three weeks ago.
The off-again, on-again prohibition of tobacco left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Millions of smokers felt pangs of injustice, and have since turned to more illicit ways of securing their ciggies. Dean Macpherson is the shadow minister of trade, and he finally got a chance to grill NDZ about the contentious matter this week.
Dlamini-Zuma’s “missing information” arms the critics
Her response, however, left the DA representative underwhelmed. Dlamini-Zuma issued a vague reply when asked to prove that thousands of submissions convinced the National Command Council to extend the ban on cigarettes. Macpherson has since accused the Cabinet member of never having the support in the first place:
- The DA submitted a written question to Dlamini-Zuma, regarding the cigarette ban.
- The party had asked to see the “2 000 objections” against lifting the ban on cigarette sales during Level 4 of lockdown – submissions that were persuasive enough to form a controversial government policy.
- However, the minister told the DA that the information “is not readily available in the Department”.
- Macpherson now thinks NDZ has either “lied to the nation or lied to Parliament” by withholding access to the objections.
Support for cigarette ban questioned
Dlamini-Zuma’s reliance on the submissions in favour of keeping the ban has attracted suspicion, right from the moment her statement aired live on television. The 2 000 or so backers were also dwarfed by a petition demanding that smokes went back on sale – the viral campaign reached 500 000 signatures within a 48 hour period. Meanwhile, Macpherson is standing by his grandiose conclusion:
“The information requested should’ve been at the Minister’s fingertips. This should be on the tip of her tongue. It should be her guiding light when making difficult decisions that not only influence South Africans’ quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic but also their very survival. It shouldn’t be gathering dust in the background.”
“The one thing very apparent about the Minister and quite a few of her colleagues are that they seem bloated on their newfound power and enjoy playing god over people’s lives, trying to control every aspect of it. This should have been the easiest thing in the world for the Minister to produce the requested information.”
Did NDZ mislead the country when she told us she received 2000 objections to allowing smoking? It’s starting to seem that way. pic.twitter.com/X7dzqJxN2C
— Dean Macpherson MP (@DeanMacpherson) May 18, 2020