The civil rights group AfriForum has a letter of attorney to the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, late in which she was informed that the organization would take legal action if the smoking ban was not lifted. The letter is also on the Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, means.
The ban on the sale of tobacco products is now also continued at level 3 of the seclusion regulations after Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa initially said it would already be lifted at level 4 of the regulations.
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita SA) has already dragged the minister to court over the ban. Fita SA argues in court documents that the ban was never legitimate, to begin with, and is now calling for an urgent order that the decision is reversed. He also asked that the government provide the reasons why the ban continues.
It’s about ‘freedom, personal choice’
Ernst Roets, Head of Policy and Action at AfriForum, says there is no rational basis for the smoking ban and that the secrecy of the government in this respect amounts to a violation of the public’s civil rights.
Roets says he is also concerned about rumors that Dlamini-Zuma has friends in the underworld who are smuggling cigarettes illegally.
“AfriForum does not fight for smoking; we fight for freedom: Freedom for the community not to be subjected to outrageous precepts, ”says Roets.
In the attorney’s letter, AfriForum asks that the smoking ban be lifted and says if the Minister does not respond adequately to AfriForum’s attorney’s letter by Monday, further legal action will be considered.
“However, we trust that legal action can be avoided and that the irrational, unconstitutional, and unlawful ban on tobacco products is lifted on time.”
South Africa switches to level 3 of the seclusion regulations on Monday. More details on the regulations are expected to be released later today, after a media conference on it has been postponed twice before.
The FF Plus has meanwhile said that Mkhize does not seem to be interested in the issue of a personal choice or scientific evidence regarding smoking and Covid-19.
Armand Coetzee, a FF Plus MP in the National Council of Provinces (NRP), said the party had asked the minister during an online sitting of the NRP to provide the scientific facts that form the basis for the government’s decision not to lift the ban on the sale of tobacco products. Mkhize replied that expert judgment for the decision is not necessary as the dangers of tobacco consumption are known.
“The minister’s disdain for the initial research into the relationship between Covid-19 and smoking is alarming. Smoking does, however, pose health hazards. However, the minister could not say whether the current regulations and the resulting ban on cigarettes are based on scientific principles or not, ”says Coetzee.
He says that inputs from various experts enable scientists to closely examine research to validate the findings of such research or not. As long as the expertise is not taken to heart, the government’s decision in this regard will remain suspect.
“Every person’s right to decide for himself or herself is violated by this unscientific approach of the government, which can in fact be seen as ideologically driven.”
The FF Plus says it is also continuing its urgent application in the Supreme Court to contest the validity of the National Disaster Management Act and to ask the court to find that the government is abusing the law.