“Any assertion that Minister Dlamini-Zuma acted unilaterally and outside of the decisions of the cabinet on the prohibition of the sale of tobacco is baseless and unfounded.”
AS THE proponents of cigarette sales during the lockdown continue to rip into Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, demanding that it must be allowed, President Cyril Ramaphosa has come out to support her.
Ramaphosa through his spokesperson, Khusela Diko said those who claim that Dlamini-Zuma, the minister for cooperative governance and traditional affairs (CoGTA) and member of the national command council overruled him, are wrong.
“Any assertion that Minister Dlamini-Zuma acted unilaterally and outside of the decisions of the cabinet on the prohibition of the sale of tobacco is baseless and unfounded. The minister’s announcements on the restriction of tobacco sales are consistent with the collective decision of cabinet,” he said.
He further told Independent Media on Sunday that while he announced that sale of cigarettes would be allowed on level 4, he did specify that the decision was still going to be debated by the public.
Ramaphosa’s backing of Dlamini-Zuma came at a time when the ANC women’s league was also up in arms against those singling her out for being the brain behind the ban. The league’s secretary-general, Meokgo Matuba said the attack on Dlamini-Zuma was laced with racism and done under the guise of freedom of speech.
“The ANCWL respects the freedom of speech, but however we cannot be silent when other people are spitting their misogynist and racist venom bile on Minister Dlamini-Zuma disguised under the right to freedom of speech. Minister Dlamini Zuma’s biggest sin was to announce the Ministerial Command Team (MCT) decisions in particular that selling of cigarettes and tobacco related products remains prohibited in level 4 of the lockdown,” she said.
Furthermore, Matuba said the decision was taken by a collective and everyone was asked to make an input, therefore they have been taken aback by the attacks.
“When the final decision is taken, it binds all members of the MCT and cannot be reduced to a decision of an individual.”
Also adding its voice was the ANC itself. In a statement issued yesterday, the party said it was dismayed that there are those who claim that certain ministers were overriding decisions of the council.
“The ANC further notes with dismay discussions and suggestions by some purporting that individual Ministers take unilateral decisions on matters related to the COVID-19 interventions that are meant to save lives and protect South Africans from this pandemic. The work of government is guided by the collective of Cabinet and the NCVCC (National CoronaVirus Command Council) led by the President of Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, constituted to specifically address matters related to the pandemic,” the party said.
It added that the Disaster Management Act of 2002 confers on Dlamini-Zuma the responsibility to co-ordinate the country’s national disaster mitigation efforts.
“The decision by the NCVCC to continue with a ban on the sale of tobacco during the Level 4 Eased lockdown was pronounced to have been carefully considered following a broad and open consultation process. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma makes this (sic) pronouncements in her official capacity and therefore individual attacks directed at her for carrying out her official duties are unfortunate and mostly come across as racial and misogynistic.”
Independent political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said the reason why some people are singling out Dlamini-Zuma was because she is the one who announced the ban to a nation that was promised that cigarettes would be sold. He added that the other reason why they single her out was because she was known for opposing public smoking and advertising while she was minister of health.
According to Mathekga, the debate has taken another rowdy turn and it has revived Nasrec battle lines as those who are supporting Zuma are those who backed her at the ANC’s Nasrec conference in 2017. This is while those opposed to her and backing Ramaphosa are those who funded his Nasrec campaign.