- President Cyril Ramaphosa has dismissed claims that Minister Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma overruled his decision on the cigarette ban
- Ramaphosa is adamant the call was a collective one and that the COGTA minister hadn't made the decision by herself
- This comes as the extended ban prompted outrage amongst citizens last week
President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed the speculation that Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma strong-armed him into making a u-turn on the cigarette ban during lockdown.
In his weekly letter to South Africa, Ramaphosa noted the uproar over the decision, commenting that:
"There has been much public comment on government’s decision to extend the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products into level 4. A decision like this is bound to be controversial, but it is wrong to suggest that there are Ministers or a President doing and saying whatever they want on this matter."
Ramaphosa acknowledged that just over a week ago he announced that cigarette sales would be allowed during Level 4 lockdown:
"On 23 April, I announced that cigarette sales would be permitted during level 4. This was based on the view of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), and which was contained in the draft framework that was published for consultation."
The president highlighted that the NCCC has since 'reconsidered its position' on the matter.
"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."
Ramaphosa defended this about-turn by saying it is better to err on the side of caution.
"The reality is that we are sailing in uncharted waters. There is still a great deal about the epidemiology of the virus that is unknown. It is better to err on the side of caution than to pay the devastating price of a lapse in judgment in future."
Briefly.co.za reported that numerous tobacco bodies have vowed to challenge this decision in court, with thousands of South Africans signing a petition to lift the ban completely.
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