The hosts of eNCA’s daily morning show, Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton, have apologised for their commentary on Monday that singled out Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for government’s about-turn on lifting the tobacco ban.
The pair apologised on the 24-hour news channel on Tuesday morning.
“Yesterday we made an unfortunate judgement call on President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma around the debacle on the cigarette ban, singling her out on the decision as if it were her own. This was unfair and unwarranted, especially after president Ramaphosa had provided clarity on the matter.”
“As it is the practice here at eNCA, news anchors are allowed to make commentary on any matter of national importance and this is done purely to encourage debate. It is not done out of malice or personalised attacks on a particular leader.”
This comes after calls to boycott the channel from the ANC Youth League national task team, which accused the broadcaster of invoking “the long foregone 2017 ANC conference to help legitimise their imaginary divisions”.
In its statement, the task team likened the channel to a Nazi-inspired show.
“We are totally in support of media freedom, but remain opposed to gutter journalism as purported by this broadcaster. As the [national youth task team], we therefore call on members of the ANC Youth League and the people of South Africa to boycott watching this Nazi-inspired propagandist channel,” the statement read.
Dlamini-Zuma came under fire after being accused of reversing Ramaphosa’s decision on the sale of cigarettes during the lockdown.
She cited health reasons for continuing with the ban as lockdown restrictions eased to level 4.
The decisions was met with opposition from tobacco companies that threatened to take the government to court.
British American Tobacco SA is among several bodies threatening legal action if the ban is not lifted.
Some accused the minister of acting alone and of going against the president’s decision to allow them to trade in level 4.
The ANC Women’s League labelled the backlash directed at Dlamini-Zuma as “racist bile”.
In a statement, the women’s league said the singling out of Dlamini-Zuma from the leadership serving in the council is a “well-calculated move” to create an impression that the minister is undermining Ramaphosa’s leadership.
However, in his weekly newsletter, the president said the decision to ban tobacco trade was made collectively.
“This was a collective decision, and the public statements by both myself and the minister were made on behalf of and mandated by the collective I lead,” Ramaphosa said.
On Monday, he said that government’s decision to extend the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products in level 4 was bound to be controversial, “but it is wrong to suggest that there are ministers or a president doing and saying whatever they want on this matter”.
“After careful consideration and discussion, the command council reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by Cabinet and announced by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on April 29 extended the prohibition.”