Cigarette ban: DA lodges complaint against Dlamini-Zuma

  • The DA laid a charge against Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with Parliament's Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests over the cigarette ban.
  • Dlamini-Zuma said 2 000 public submissions supported the continuation of the ban, but according to FITA's count, only 23% of 1 535 submissions supported the ban.
  • According to the DA, this is in contravention of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members' Interests for Assembly and Permanent Council Members.

The DA on Monday laid a charge against Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with Parliament's Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests, alleging that she lied to the public to justify the ban on sales of tobacco products.

On 29 April Dlamini-Zuma shocked the country, especially the smokers, when she announced that the cigarette sales ban would remain in place during Level 4 of the lockdown.

This, days after President Cyril Ramaphosa said cigarette sales would be allowed on that level.

She said Cabinet decided to rescind its decision to allow the sale of cigarettes after it considered 2 000 public submissions supporting the ban.

She argued that, while Covid-19 was a relatively new disease, early studies supported the view that using tobacco products not only increased the risk of catching the disease but also the risk of contracting a more serious form of it.

She has since held fast that tobacco sales should remain banned, due to its health impact.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) served government with court papers in early May to challenge the ban.

After Dlamini-Zuma filed responding papers, Fita claimed that according to its count, there were 1 535 public submissions, of which 47.2% had nothing to do with cigarettes, 23.3% were in favour of the ban being lifted and 29.6% wanted the ban to remain.

Last month, DA MP Dean Macpherson asked her in a written question for information on the public submissions her department received and relied on to make changes to the regulations when the lockdown level was lowered to Level 4.

Her answer read: "The information requested by the Honourable Member is not readily available in the department. The information will be submitted to the Honourable Member as soon as it is available."

In a statement released on Monday DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said: "Now it has been revealed that the minister had not even received 2 000 submissions in total, let alone that many supporting her ban."

"The DA will therefore lodge a complaint in terms of Clause 4.1.5 of the Code of Ethical Conduct against Minister Dlamini-Zuma."

This clause requires a member to "maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament and thereby engender the respect and confidence that society needs to have in Parliament as a representative institution", according to the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members' Interests for Assembly and Permanent Council Members.

"The minister has a duty of care to ensure that she provides Parliament with correct information, just like former minister Lynn Brown had a duty of care to provide the correct information to Parliament," Mazzone said.

In February 2018, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that Brown, then minister of state owned enterprises, had "inadvertently misled Parliament in her assertion that there were no other contracts of engagement concluded between Eskom and Trillian".

The report related to Brown's written reply to a parliamentary question from December 2016 about whether Eskom had paid money to Trillian.

The DA alleged that Brown had failed to disclose that there were in fact "contracts of engagement" between Eskom and Trillian, and subsequently laid a complaint with the Public Protector that the minister violated the executive ethics code.

Their complaint was substantiated.

On Friday, the DA also said Dlamini-Zuma lied and called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire her.

The ANC remained steadfast behind its cadre.

"The ANC in Caucus reiterates its unwavering support for President Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as well as Dr Zweli Mkhize and the entire Cabinet who have continued to perform their national duties diligently in terms of the Disaster Management Act of 2002 whilst guiding the nation through various timely regulations issued consistently since the declaration of the State of Disaster," reads a statement from ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina.

The statement was released over the weekend and condemned the racist memes of Dlamini-Zuma which has recently been spread on social media.

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