Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu says that government has no plans to lift the ban on the sale of cigarettes in South Africa, despite mounting protests and the threat of legal action.
The issue will not be referred to mediation as there ‘is nothing to negotiate’, and the government has no plan to change its approach, he told the Sunday Times.
“There is no possibility of a midway agreement that accommodates them and us. We believe that it is the right thing to do. I don’t see any of us agreeing on the measures the other party has taken.
“We will make our case in court. We believe we have very good reasons,” he said
This was echoed by justice minister, Ronald Lamola, who also indicated that government was unlikely to budge on the issue.
“The cigarettes matter will depend on the willingness of the parties to mediate, but it does look like something that will end up in the courts,” he said.
“We are not taking away the rights of anyone to go to court; we are just saying that, where it is possible for the parties involved to sit down and mediate, it will save costs for everyone.”
Government had originally indicated that it would allow for the sale of cigarettes in a proposed lockdown plan presented last weekend. However, it later backtracked on this decision when the official level 4 restrictions were gazetted on Wednesday (29 April).
Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said that this reversal was because government had received more than 2,000 complaints from the public and industry stakeholders.
She added that there are health risks associated with smoking and which could exacerbate the ongoing health crisis.
The move has faced fierce opposition in the private sector, with tobacco companies now gearing up to fight the decision in court.
More than 470,000 people have also signed an petition to lift the ban on the sale of cigarettes in the country.