Hell hath no fury like a politician lobbying for the return of cigarettes. Shadow trade minister Dean Macpherson vented his spleen on Friday afternoon, following the president’s response to his Parliamentary question. However, the DA representative believes President Ramaphosa is misleading the nation.

Macpherson issued a statement, slamming Cyril’s response when asked to provide ’empirical evidence’ that tobacco should be banned during the coronavirus crisis. However, rather than submit any new information, Ramaphosa repeated claims made by Dlamini-Zuma that ‘new medical evidence’ had come to light.

Why Cyril Ramaphosa is accused of ‘misleading the nation’

Then, pressed to name a date when cigarettes could be sold again, the president contradicted one of his own ministers. Jackson Mthembu has previously stated that smokes will return to the shelves at Level 2 of lockdown. But South Africa’s head of state wasn’t so sure…

“When asked about the date the government envisaged that the ban on the sale of tobacco products would be lifted, the President indicated that ‘[at] this stage, it is difficult to determine when the ban on the sale of tobacco and related products will be lifted’.”

“This answer from the President is in stark contrast to Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mtembu who said the smoking ban would be lifted in Level 2. The government cannot continue to mislead the public and Parliament on the reasons for the nonsensical ban on tobacco products.”

Dean Macpherson

Cigarette ban – Ramaphosa dragged into the verbals

This hasn’t gone down well in the DA ranks, as they continue to challenge the government’s rationale for banning smokes. The shadow minister also affirmed that the illicit tobacco trade was happy to benefit ‘from the whims and wills’ of COGTA minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma:

“President Ramaphosa’s failure to produce any evidence is a clear indication that there wasn’t any empirical evidence to support the ban in the first place. The continued punting of submissions received is also ludicrous given the fact that the government only received 454 public submissions in favour of the tobacco ban.”

“While the government continues to tie itself in knots over the ban on smoking, it is evident that the ban has nothing to do with the impact of smoking on public and individual health, and has seemingly everything to do with whims and wills Minister Dlamini-Zuma and those in the illicit trade who would benefit from such a ban.”

Cigarette court case to be heard next week

Although NDZ has copped the most flack for the cigarette ban, the spotlight has been turned on Ramaphosa recently. Certainly, Macpherson’s revelations are the first time that a senior politician has directly accused the president of dishonesty in this matter, and it’s not an issue that will ‘disappear in a cloud of smoke’ any time soon.

The government will be dragged to court next Tuesday, to properly outline their reasons for banning cigarettes. Another defeat for the Cabinet – after a week of legal upheaval – would be good news for cigarette enthusiasts, who could have a verdict by Wednesday. And judging by our ministers’ recent form in the dock, a turnover of our elected representatives isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

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Presh JM Reporter

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