Alan Winde: We’re not defying government on cigarettes … the rules are ‘vague’

Alan Winde.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Friday said he had spoken to President Cyril Ramaphosa to seek clarity on the lockdown regulations around the sale of cigarettes in stores, as well as numerous other products.

Winde said his provincial government had not sought to defy national regulations around the sale of cigarettes, they had merely interpreted the new laws differently.

National government has never explicitly banned the sale of cigarettes. Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel has, however, not included cigarettes on its list of basic goods that can be sold. Patel also specifically said that cigarettes cannot be considered a basic good.

“There has been a lot of debate online about how regulations, especially relating to what you can buy at the shops, are being interpreted,” said Winde.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Thursday in Pretoria at an interministerial briefing that the ban on cigarettes applied countrywide.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, cigarette sales are not allowed. That includes the Western Cape,” said Cele.

ALSO READ: Bheki Cele warns DA-led Western Cape that sale of cigarettes remains illegal

Winde has responded: “I want to make something very clear: All of us have one clear objective in mind – and one only: to stop the spread of Covid-19, and to collectively, as a country, help save lives.

“We know that the regulations were created for this reason. And any clarifications or updates to them – which, considering how quickly we moved into lockdown is entirely normal – needs to be done with that ultimate aim in mind – to continue keeping us all safe.

“I also want to emphasise this, because it wasn’t reported correctly: The Western Cape government does not have the power to change regulations. From the outset we have shown our full support to President Ramaphosa for the lockdown and we are doing everything we can to help ensure these regulations are enforced.”

The regulations were, however, vague at times, he said, and residents across the province had been confused about what it meant for them.

“We have tried to help with this interpretation, after consulting our legal team, and the SAPS. We have done this only to provide the clarity many people need – so that they can abide by regulations properly. Everyone wants to play their part.

“This requires common sense but also an understanding of the objective of the regulations: to keep people from gathering and spreading the virus.

“I see the debate has largely centred on cigarette sales. But this is actually only one of many questions we sought advice on from SAPS.

“For example, can you buy a data dongle so you can access e-learning resources? Can learners buy notebooks and pens to study? This is so important for our learners right now who need an education while our schools are closed.”

He said he had many further questions and he took cooperating with national government towards achieving the goal of beating Covid-19 very seriously.

“I therefore called President Cyril Ramaphosa this morning to make clear that our concerns relate to the proper interpretation of the regulations, which are at times vague. Together with the national government, we want to apply a common sense approach to them that stops the spread, but also assists us with things like e-learning, for example.”

He said Ramaphosa had agreed that his government could submit a list of the issues that required clarification to Minister of Cooperative Governance Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Friday, and a special President’s Coordinating Council would be called on Saturday to discuss the regulations.

“I thank the president for his willingness to help us and our residents get the clarity they need.”

Winde said he would be meeting Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday afternoon during a Facebook Live session and they would issue statements about the meeting afterwards.

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