Cigarette tussle: 'Govt to blame for Ramaphosa, NDZ fiasco'
Durban - As the fallout around the government's U-turn on the sale of cigarettes continues, leaving a widely held narrative of a power tussle between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cooperative Governance Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, one political analyst believes the government's handling of the issue was 'a colossal flop'.
Ramaphosa announced on April 23 that the country would be moving into level 4 of the lockdown from May which would see some restrictions relaxed and one million people going back to work. The president also announced that the sale of cigarettes would be permitted under level 4, bringing joy and relief for millions of smokers who had been barred from buying tobacco products during the lockdown.
A week later, in outlining the level 4 lockdown regulations, Dlamini Zuma had the country's smokers up in arms after she announced that the government had opted to reverse its decision and that the sale of cigarettes would remain in place.
The decision has seen the development of a narrative that Dlamini Zuma undermined Ramaphosa.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the narrative of a power tussle had unfortunately become powerful because of government's mishandling of the situation. He said the biggest issue on the U-turn on the sale of cigarettes was that government had flip flopped on the decision to ban, unban, before banning again, the sale of cigarettes during lockdown.
He said that the lack of a prompt explanation to the public about why it had opted to ban cigarettes after Ramaphosa had announced the unbanning of cigarette sales had therefore left fertile ground for people to have their own narratives on the situation.
"In flip flopping in an inexplicable manner (the government) could not give an explanation and the only explanation was just that the decision was was made collectively. There was never a real explanation that one can say told us why they moved from the initial position by Ramaphosa to the decision of then banning cigarettes.
"In not explaining itself properly, the government left the story available to speculation on the power balance between the president and Dlamini Zuma. The government did a bad job here in not explaining its decision properly and not even managing the fallout properly, leaving the whole contagion to take its own life and now the story has mended itself to the narrative of a power battle between President Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma," said Mathekga.
This comes as the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association is taking the government to court in a bid to get the sales ban reversed, while the British American Tobacco SA (BATSA) have threatened legal action against the government and also announced that they were seeking urgent clarity on the decision-making process that led to the government imposing an indefinite ban on the legal sale of tobacco products.