Tuesday, 05 May 2020

KwaZulu-Natal: President Cyril Ramaphosa has commented on the court case over the ban of cigarette sales during level 4 lockdown involving tobacco manufacturing companies.

Speaking in KwaZulu-Natal, where he was inspecting the province’s state of readiness to deal with the projected spike of COVID-19 infections, President Ramaphosa said he has confidence in the court that they will examine the matters and disputes properly.

“We live in a free country. The content of our democracy is such that if you feel aggrieved, you’re entitled to take your grievance to the courts of our country and that’s what they’ve been elected to do,” he told journalists.

Previously, President Ramaphosa had announced that the sale of tobacco products would be allowed when the country moved to Level 4 of the nationwide lockdown. Level 4 of the lockdown, aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, began on 1 May.

The government then decided against this after the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) consulted medical experts and various roleplayers.

“We’re a very consultative government and we do consult on a number of issues… and we are a listening government and much as we could have decided on an issue and if our people raised these concerns we listened, and we re-examined our position and that’s precisely what happened and that was done.”

He said it was unfortunate that it was done on a very contentious issue.

“This is by no means the only issue where we listened to our people and changed tact… This one is controversial, and we accept that.”

And while some may have pointed fingers at Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and accused her of setting the President’s decision aside, President Ramaphosa insisted it was a collective decision.

”There’s nothing wrong whatsoever in anyone of us changing our minds and you can ask yourself if you’ve ever changed your mind on anything and you’ll find you’ve done it more times than just sticking to a position you’ve taken originally,” he explained.

“So, this brouhaha on this issue, really shouldn’t be there.”

He told the media that the government is not trying to pursue any interest except ensure the health of South Africans and to do what is best for the people.

“That is all, finish and klaar,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal’s readiness

On the province’s state of readiness, he said he was impressed by the work done by the province in dealing with the pandemic.

He was also pleased with how the province is dealing with social distress and how they have organised structures to make sure the needy are offered a helping hand.

“I’ve also been impressed on how they’re getting ready for the spike of infections that are going to happen from what the scientists and epidemiologists tell us, setting up of hospitals, centres that have been put up and the number of beds that have been prepared.”

The President said he has no doubt that the province, which has the third-highest COVID-19 cases in the country, is ready to deal with the sick and is satisfied with the work done.

“My visit has been a good visit and I’m very delighted and we’ll go to other provinces to go and check the state of readiness.”