Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa must fire Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma from Cabinet if she lied to the country about the level of public support for a continued ban on the sale of cigarettes, Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen said on Friday.
Steenhuisen said it seemed from the court papers she filed opposing an application seeking the lifting of the ban, that the minister had lied when she said government had received "more than 2 000" petitions calling for the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products to be upheld.
"If this is indeed the case, then President Ramaphosa surely has no choice but to fire her from his cabinet," he said.
Dlamini-Zuma made the claim in late April, when contradicting Ramaphosa's earlier assertion that the ban would be lifted after the end of the third week of the country's Covid-19 lockdown.
This week, she announced that the ban will remain in place during level 3 of the lockdown.
The ban is being challenged in court by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA).
In responding papers, counting more than 4,000 pages, Dlamini-Zuma included 1,535 submissions.
However, Steenhuisen said: "Of these, 47.2 percent had nothing to do with cigarettes or smoking, 23.3 percent were in favour of smoking and only 29.6 percent supported the ban.
"This amounts to just 454 submissions. Clearly the minister was lying to South Africans in order to further her own pre-determined agenda."
Steenhuisen said it was an open question whether she implicated the rest of the National Coronavirus Command Council in her statement or whether she had mislead her colleagues.
"Either way, this conduct renders her wholly unfit to occupy the position of a cabinet minister, and particularly one with such sweeping powers under the Disaster Management Act," Steenhuisen said.
He added that it was in fact irrelevant how many people wrote to support the ban because public submission had not influenced any other Covid-19 regulations.
"But the fact that Minister Dlamini Zuma took the decision to make up a number of alleged supporting submissions and then lie to the people of South Africa in her briefing should be grounds for immediate suspension from her position. If the president wants to salvage some credibility for government’s response to this crisis, he cannot allow her to evade accountability on this."
British Tobacco SA on Friday announced that it would also file court papers to challenge the ban.
African News Agency (ANA)