The Democratic Alliance says that rumours and speculation around an imminent ban on alcohol and cigarettes are not true, citing sources within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
Rumours started circulating over WhatsApp and social media on Tuesday (25 August) that the government is moving to once again ban the sale of alcohol and cigarettes in the country.
This was purportedly in response to weekend arrests relating to alcohol, as well as the death of metro police officers in an accident reportedly involving a drunk driver.
The rumour mongers claimed that president Cyril Ramaphosa would make the announcement in an address on Tuesday night.
However, Democratic Alliance MP Dean McPhearson, who tracks the trade and industry portfolio, said he engaged with the DTI who said that it was not aware of any move to reintroduce the ban.
I have spoken to a very high source in the DTI that has confirmed the rumors of booze ban tonight are not true. Please treat voice notes that claim to have information on government plans with extreme caution. We don’t need panic in this time.
— Dean Macpherson MP 🇿🇦 (@DeanMacpherson) August 25, 2020
Acting presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale, meanwhile, told TimesLive that there has been no announcement that the president will address the nation, while the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs confirmed to News24 that the messages in circulation were ‘fake news’.
Action on booze
While speculation on the sudden ban on alcohol and cigarettes has been dismissed, there have been growing calls from within the government to clamp down on alcohol laws.
In particular, transport minister Fikile Mbalula has called for a full review, with proposal to make alcohol less accessible.
There have also been messages from medical experts and the alcohol industry itself, supporting measures to curb abuse in the country.
In terms of tobacco sales, Cooperative Governance and Tradtional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that government cannot issue any guarantees that the smoking ban will not return.
This was the message in response to fair trade group, Fita, which asked the minister for a guarantee in this regard, as a condition to retract its ongoing court battle against her and her department.
In a letter sent by the state attorney to Fita, the government said that Dlamini-Zuma cannot give an undertaking and agree to this condition as it limits the minister’s powers under the Disaster Management Act.
“This is not because they intend to reinstate the temporary prohibition at a later stage, but simply because agreeing to this condition would constitute an impermissible and unlawful fettering of the minister’s discretion conferred upon her in terms of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002.
“That said, the minister can, and does, undertake that any future decision regarding the sale of tobacco and tobacco products, if any, would be taken in accordance with the law and the requirements of legality.”
The sale of cigarettes and alcohol were both banned under the hard lockdown, which commenced on 27 March 2020. Tobacco sales remained prohibited up until the move to lockdown level 2 on 18 August, while alcohol sales were briefly allowed under lockdown level 3 (starting 1 June), before again being banned three weeks later.