Court battle to lift ciggies, booze ban ‘will continue’

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Those outraged by a report that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is fighting for the ban on cigarette and alcohol sales to continue up to Level 1 of the lockdown can take comfort in the fact that they have at least one heavy hitter in their corner.

The Citizen reports, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) says the outrage about the comment attributed to Dlamini-Zuma is understandable, and the body is going ahead with its court challenge against the minister’s regulations on cigarette sales.

Fita took Dlamini-Zuma and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to the High Court in Pretoria after the government’s decision not to lift the ban on sale of cigarettes when the lockdown was lifted to Level 4.

The court ruled that the government must hand over records of its decision and reasons, if any, for the promulgation of its current resolution 27 of level 4, which banned the sale of tobacco and liquor.

Dlamini-Zuma vowed to defend the government’s decision and in an answering affidavit opposing the Fita application she accused the association of failing to state why it should obtain the details of the NCCC decision.

Fita chair Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said the association was expecting the government to comply with the high court deadline of Tuesday, after which it would supplement its court papers and bring the matter back to court soon.

“We have further been granted a special allocation by the acting Deputy Judge President of the High Court in Pretoria in this regard and will advise once the date for our matter to be heard is confirmed by the appointed judge,” Mnguni said.

He was reacting to a news report saying that Dlamini-Zuma had asked during the NCCC meeting for the ban on the sale of tobacco and alcohol to continue until Level 1 of the lockdown.

The minister, who is co-chair of the command council, was allegedly supported by Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

Dlamini-Zuma believed cigarettes and alcohol posed high health risk and that allowing their sale on 1 June, when Level 3 was due to take effect, was not a good idea.

According to News24, there was allegedly no resolution after NCCC members debated it.

Mnguni said Fita understood that, to date, no definitive decision had been taken by the NCCC on the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes, although many members allegedly supported lifting the ban.

Mnguni said he understood the issue of cigarette sales during Level 3 and beyond was before the NCCC for debate.

Dlamini-Zuma’s spokesperson, Mlungisi Mtshali, declined to comment, saying he knew nothing about the debate.

“What I know [is that] at Level 4, the sale of cigarettes and alcohol are not allowed and Level 3 regulations are not out yet,” Mtshali said.

Eric Naki / The Citizen