No need to huff and puff, says Ramaphosa on cig U-turn

News

No need to huff and puff, says Ramaphosa on cig U-turn

There is nothing wrong with changing one’s mind, the president says

Orrin Singh and Zimasa Matiwane
President Cyril Ramaphosa, national health minister Zweli Mkhize and KZN premier Sihle Zikalala in Durban on Tuesday.
HANDS ON President Cyril Ramaphosa, national health minister Zweli Mkhize and KZN premier Sihle Zikalala in Durban on Tuesday.
Image: GCIS

There is nothing sinister about the government changing its mind about the sale of cigarettes during level four of the lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.

.

He said while he had originally announced the sale of cigarettes would be permitted under level 4, people had raised concerns, and government listened and reexamined its position.

“It so happens that it was done on a very controversial issue. This is by no means the only issue where we’ve listened to our people and changed tack,” he told reporters in Pietermaritzburg where he was assessing the province’s readiness for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ramaphosa said it was a matter decided on collectively.

“Listening to our people, we heard the serious concerns raised by our people, health-wise, and we decided we should reexamine that. We discussed it and changed our position,” he said.

We live in a free country and the content of our democracy is such that if you feel aggrieved, you are entitled to take your grievance to the courts.
Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa has his temperature checked before touring the quarantine site at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
FEELING THE HEAT President Cyril Ramaphosa has his temperature checked before touring the quarantine site at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
Image: The Presidency

There was nothing wrong with anyone changing their minds, he added.

“You can ask yourself whether you’ve ever changed your mind on anything, and you’ll find you’ve done it more times than just sticking to a position you may have taken originally. So this brouhaha on this issue really should not even be there.”

He said nobody in government was trying to pursue any vested interest regarding the ban.

“The only interest we are pursuing is the health and interest of our people, that is all, finish and klaar,” he said.

Asked about his views on members of the tobacco industry going to court over the banning of cigarettes, Ramaphosa said he had faith the country’s courts would assess the matter and make a decision accordingly.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) filed papers in the Pretoria High Court on Monday, requesting copies of minutes of government’s National Command Council (NCC) meetings relating to decisions taken on the banning, unbanning and subsequent re-banning of cigarettes and tobacco products.

“We live in a free country, and the content of our democracy is such that if you feel aggrieved, you are entitled to take your grievance to the courts. That’s what they’ve elected to do, and we still have great confidence in the courts, that they are able to examine matters and disputes properly,” said Ramaphosa.

Turning to the economy, he said the government would now gear itself towards recovering the ailing economy but added the worst was still to come with the pandemic.

“We’ve got to plan. We’ve been informed that the worst is still coming. The important thing is that we need to ensure we lessen the pace at which infections are going to take place.”

Ramaphosa said a post-Covid-19 economic future needed to ensure inclusive growth, empower women and youth, and incorporate black people in the main.

“Radical economic transformation must underpin the economic future that we need to craft going forward.”

He said the pandemic gave SA an opportunity to reconstruct the economy.

“I am characterising it as a war, and we must start planning for a postwar situation which gives rise to challenges and opportunities. My view is that we have to put in place the pillars of the new economy – we cannot continue the same way.

“Many people are going to lose their jobs, we need to find and create and build jobs for the many who are going to lose jobs.

“We need to be asking ourselves what is this new vision that we envisage for our country going forward and come up with a clear economic strategy,” he added.