Home South African Ramaphosa preparing to lift alcohol, cigarette bans – sources

Ramaphosa preparing to lift alcohol, cigarette bans – sources

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has been advised to lift the restrictions on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes and move the country to Level 2 of the lockdown.

File picture: Siyabulela Duda

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa is preparing to announce a decision to revise the country’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to alert Level 2 and end the divisive twin prohibition on tobacco and alcohol sales.

After a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the president initially agreed to make the announcement on Sunday night.

However, on Wednesday well-placed sources said he may decide to do so sooner, partly because the eagerly-awaited agreement to lift the ban on tobacco sales could otherwise well unravel before Sunday as wrangling among Cabinet members continued.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who signed off on the regulation maintaining the tobacco ban in terms of the Disaster Management Act, are understood to oppose the move.

Dlamini Zuma has been defending the ban in court against separate challenges brought by British American Tobacco SA (Batsa) and the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita).

The Western Cape High Court heard argument from legal counsel for Batsa last week that the ban was not in line with either the constitution or the disaster act and a ruling is due soon.

Fita is seeking leave to appeal a ruling in June by the North Gauteng High Court that upheld the ban but was widely seen as granting the minister too much leeway in implementing a prohibition without scientific evidence showing it would be essential in handling the pandemic.

The association argued in court papers filed on Tuesday that the supreme court needs to determine the extent of the minister’s powers during the state of disaster, which was expected to be extended this week.

Respected constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said he believed that Fita had a fair chance to succeed on appeal.

Tobacco industry insiders noted that there have repeatedly been rumours in recent months that the ban, which took effect on March 27, may be lifted.

“I’m not holding my breath,” said one. “We’ve been here before.”

But it is widely accepted that the ban has become a liability for the Ramaphosa administration, robbing it both of desperately needed tax revenue and popular support.

– African News Agency (ANA)