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Lifting ban on sale of alcohol, cigarette 'will undermine' crux of lockdown

Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the lockdown regulations were not in force to punish people but instead to save lives.

FILE: Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma updates South Africans on regulations pertaining to the COVID-19 lockdown. Picture: @GovernmentZA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG.CAPE TOWN - Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said lifting the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales would undermine the essence of the lockdown completely.

The minister was addressing Parliament’s portfolio committee on Tuesday on some of the decisions, which have been made in recent days relating to the enforcement of lockdown regulations.

Dlamini-Zuma said the lockdown regulations were not in force to punish people but instead to save lives.

Addressing members of the portfolio committee, she explained that it is widely known that there are many negative effects of alcohol consumption - including violent crime.

South Africans have been complaining about government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol and cigarettes during the nationwide lockdown, pleading for a review of the regulation.

However, Dlamini-Zuma said if this were to be done, there would be no point to the lockdown.

But even worse, medical workers would have to deal with crimes related to alcohol consumption instead of OVID-19.

She said not being able to purchase alcohol was a small sacrifice in the face of other compromises, which were being made by citizens in the country.

Meanwhile, the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association said it had been left with no choice but to take government to court after failed attempts to negotiate.

On Tuesday, the tobacco association said its decision to take legal action against government was not an easy one to come to.

Spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said: “We have over the course of three weeks attempted to engage government and have been given some form of run around. We ultimately elected to taking this step, which is admittedly drastic, but we felt that we had no further alternative.”

He said they believe cigarettes fall under basic goods as listed in the regulations: “…And further, even if it were not, we want to declare that some of the applications in these regulations are irrational and unconstitutional because there is an arbitrary of discrimination on certain goods.”

The group said it was finalising its court papers and would serve government on Wednesday morning.

HOT PREPARED FOOD STILL OFF LIMITS

Dlamini-Zuma has also defended a ban on the sale hot food during the lockdown.

South Africans have been divided over the ban on hot food sales, with some political parties questioning whether it’s wise.

Dlamini-Zuma said South Africans may as well kiss the lockdown goodbye if government allowed the sale of hot food.

She said she understood COVID-19 was causing a lot of economic problems but insists South Africa needs a complete shutdown.

“That’s why we are saying hot food should not be sold because it will completely undermine the lockdown, completely.”

Committee chairperson Faith Muthambi has thanked the minister, but not without conveying the messages of South Africans frustrated by the regulations.

“We could not sit and keep quiet when we heard our communities complaining about being unable to attend the burials of their loved ones.”

Dlamini-Zuma is central in overseeing government regulations according to the Disaster Management Act.