Tobacco ban: Our only interest is our people's health, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has rubbished claims there is an agenda from the government in banning of tobacco products during the Level 4 lockdown.

"No one is trying to pursue any interests. The only interests we are pursuing is the health of our people, finish and klaar," the president said on Tuesday.

Ramaphosa was addressing journalists at the Royal Show Grounds in KwaZulu-Natal, where he inspected a quarantine facility. He was in the province to examine the state of its response to the pandemic. 

He said in taking the decision for the tobacco ban, the government was consultative.

On Monday, News24 reported the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) had launched a legal challenge to South Africa's ban on the manufacture, export and sale of cigarettes.

READ | Tobacco giant asks Dlamini-Zuma to amend regulations

The association launched the legal action after Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's announcement the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had decided not to lift the cigarette ban after Ramaphosa earlier stated it would end on 30 April.

Commenting on the court challenge, Ramaphosa said: "We live in a free country. The content of our democracy is such that if you feel aggrieved you are entitled to take your grievance to the court of the country and that's what they've elected to do."

He added he had faith in the judicial system.

"And we still have great confidence in the courts of our country that they are able to examine matters and disputes properly and that's how it is going to go forward."

'Nothing wrong with changing our minds'

Ramaphosa said while the government had announced a lift on the cigarette ban, it had consulted the public and decided to change its mind.

INFOGRAPHIC | Here is what is and what isn’t allowed during Level 4

"We are a listening government. As much as we may have decided on an issue, when our people raise concerns, we listen and re-examine our position and that is precisely what happened. It was done on a very controversial issue and we accept that.

"There is nothing wrong whatsoever with any one of us changing our minds."

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