Minister Dlamini-Zuma’s biggest sin was to announce that the selling of cigarettes and tobacco related products remains prohibited in level 4 of the lockdown – ANCWL

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By: Sello Theletsane

JOHANNESBURG- The African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) has condemned with disgust the attacks levelled against Minister Dlamini-Zuma.

“The ANCWL respects the freedom of speech, but however we cannot be silent when other people are spitting their misogynists and racists venom bile on Minister Dlamini-Zuma disguising under the right to freedom of speech”, the ANCWL said in a statement.

According to the ANCWL, 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.

“Without shame, the ANCWL will defend her. What she announced on the evening of 29 April 2020 are decisions of MCT which is chaired by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa. In MCT meetings all members are afforded opportunity to present their arguments on agenda items before a decision is made. When the final decision is taken, it binds all members of the MCT and cannot be reduced to a decision of an individual.

“The MCT resolved to allow public comments on announcements made by His Excellency on the Friday 24 April 2020. The ANCWL made submissions and amongst others it was rejection on unbanning of selling of cigarettes and tobacco related products during the level 4 of the lockdown. The ANCWL unapologetically and without fear of contradiction rejected the unbanning of cigarettes and tobacco related products during the level 4 of the lockdown. Our position was substatiated with research reports from reputable institutions like the World Health Organization.The world is faced with health pandemic – COVID-19 and health risks associated with smoking are well documented.”

Furthermor, the ANCWL added: “President Ramaphosa and the collective leadership serving in MCT must condemn personal attacks on Minister Dlamini-Zuma. The ANCWL has also noted, the letter from British Tobacco Association (BAT) South Africa (SA) demanding that Minister Dr Dlamini-Zuma amend the latest version of the Regulations promulgated in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (“the Act”) and permit the sale of tobacco and tobacco related products. The ANCWL calls on government through the State Attorney to defend the decision of MCT when BAT-SA or any organization/ individual takes the matter to Court. In support of the MCT under the leadership of His Excellency President Ramaphosa, the ANCWL leadership will consider lobbying progressive forces to join as friends of Court.”

The ANCWL said it is convinced that the singling out of Minister Dr Dlamini-Zuma from the leadership collective serving in the MCT is a well calculated move to create an impression that she overruled the decision of MCT and she is undermining the Chairperson of MCT President Ramaphosa.

“The allegations that BAT-SA and some lobby groups/individuals were briefed on the details of discussion in the MCT meeting regarding cigarettes and tobacco related might not be far from the truth. These allegations must be investigated by MCT.

“The President must discipline members of the MCT who fail to persuade their colleagues in the meeting and decide to go out to canvass their personal views in public. It is a high level ill-discipline for Minister Tito Mboweni to announce publicly his personal view on the selling of cigarettes and tobacco related products aftee the MCT has taken a final decision.”

According to the ANCWL, Minister Mboweni’s utterances strengthen the allegations that some members of MCT leaks details of the discussions from MCT.

“MCT should not tolerate any reckless divisive and irresponsible behavior from any its members or any member of government.

“BAT-SA argues on loss of revenue caused by banning of cigarettes and tobacco related products during the lockdown.You will hardly hear BAT-SA mentioning the costs of smoking to the economy of the country which is reported to be over R33 billion annually. Whilst we acknowledge that BAT-SA is contributing to job creation and recently having mere 27,26% black economic interest and 13,14% black women interest, that will not persuade the ANCWL to support prioritization of earnings more than lives of the people. Which racial group has the 72.24% economic interest in BAT-SA and which gender has the over 86% of economic interest in BAT-SA? Answers to these questions exposes the racial group and gender that benefits more from BAT-SA whilst the lives of people are lost due to health risks associated with smoking.”

“The country is faced with worldwide health pandemic-COVID 19. The health risks associated with cigarettes and tobacco related products are well documented and BAT-SA chooses to ignore that. BAT group and its subsidiaries seems to have a culture of being more concerned about maximizing wealth at all costs and not considering the lives of people.”

“Health and safety might not be top of BAT group values. There are allegations that BAT subsidiary promoted sales of its cigarettes in some of the most fragile, war-torn and unstable countries of Africa and the Middle East. Reportedly the former employee Paul Hopkins has spilled the beans about BAT hiring gunmen to protect BAT management and local staff in Mogadishu. It is alleged that Hopkins stated that cartons of cigarettes were distributed to traders hidden in black bags in Somalia after Al-Shabaab banned sales and threatened punishments under Sharia law between late 2008 and early 2009.

The ANCWL added that it applauds the work done by MCT led by President Ramaphosa thus far. “The team has provided excellent leadership in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. We call on the MCT team and all South Africans to remain united and not allow opportunistic blood sucking capitals and some misogynist racists to divide the country.”

“Our behavior will determine whether we will flatten the or the COVID-19 positive stats will increase rapidly and death cases increases rapidly also. Whilst it is important to ensure that economy must not collapse, that must not be done by allowing companies that are selling cigarettes and tobacco related products to deepen the health crises.”

In conclusion, the ANCWL said it must be our collective responsibility to defeat COVID-19 in South Africa. High discipline, high morale!!