PRETORIA - President Cyril Ramaphosa says he was part of the decision to reconsider the sale of tobacco products.
Ramaphosa initially announced that cigarette sales would be permitted during level four of the lockdown.
A week later Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma backtracked on that decision, earning widespread criticism.
In his weekly newsletter, the president says the National Coronavirus Command Council, which he chairs, carefully discussed the matter before taking a collective decision to extend the prohibition.
“This was a collective decision and the public statements by both myself and the minister were done on behalf of, and mandated by, the collective I lead,” Ramaphosa said.
“Every regulation we have put in place has been carefully considered. Along the way, there has been consultation with medical experts, various constituencies and different industries. We have been guided by international bodies and the experience of other countries.
“The reality is that we are sailing in uncharted waters. There is still a great deal about the epidemiology of the virus that is unknown. It is better to err on the side of caution than to pay the devastating price of a lapse in judgment in future.”
While the decision is controversial, the president says, it's wrong to suggest that he and members of the executive do or say whatever they want.
“Listening to our people and their concerns during this period has been one of the distinguishing features of how we as government have managed this pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.
“We continue to listen to the concerns of our people and are prepared to make adjustments that balance people’s concerns about the challenges they face with the need to save lives.
“At this difficult time, our collective energies must be focused on ensuring that health and life is preserved, that the delivery of food, water, health care, social security and social support is not disrupted.
“Under these extraordinary circumstances, as government, as individuals and as a society we will at times make mistakes. When these occur, we will correct them. But we must carry on, losing neither our nerve nor our resolve.
“The situation in which we find ourselves demands courage and patience. It requires goodwill and trust between you, the citizen, and your government, and between each other.”
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