South Africa: Sale of tobacco, alcohol should continue to be banned until the country reaches Level 1 of the lockdown – Cooperative Governance Minister

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Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Cooperative Governance Minister, has told the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) that the sale of tobacco and alcohol should continue to be banned until the country reaches Level 1 of the lockdown because she believed it would be too much of a health risk.

She was supported was supported by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi when she told the NCCC this week that she believed it would be too much of a health risk to allow the sale of cigarettes and alcohol on 1 June when the country is expected to go to Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown as reported by News24.

This prompted a debate in the meeting, chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, with no resolution on the matter.

A high-ranking insider with intimate knowledge of the meeting said Dlamini-Zuma had come prepared with academic papers that argued against the sale of tobacco and alcohol during the Covid-19 pandemic, citing health risks.

This is despite an agreement that government would lift the restrictions on the sale of tobacco under Level 3.

Those who opposed the proposal led by Dlamini-Zuma argued that a pandemic was not the time to make policy decisions, as both the tobacco and alcohol industries were not banned – they were simply regulated.

A reliable insider said that even Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who initially supported the ban, seemed to have come to terms with the fact that cigarettes and alcohol should be allowed with strict conditions under Level 3.

There was no decision on the matter, the source said.

“The discussion goes on and on and there is no finality,” the insider said.

This is not the first time the NCCC has heard lively discussions around the ban on tobacco and alcohol. An announcement by Ramaphosa to allow the sale of those products under Level 4 was rescinded days later after vehement opposition led by Dlamini-Zuma.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association has challenged government’s decision in court, and the Presidency and Dlamini-Zuma have until next Tuesday to provide the record of the decision and the reasons why tobacco was banned in the first place.

Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali said he could not comment on matters currently before the NCCC.

Efforts to get comment from Motsoaledi were also unsuccessful. This will be added should News24 receive it.

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