Ramaphosa says news on tobacco U-turn should have come from him

Credit: Presidency

The announcement by NDZ led to speculation that the minister was undermining the president, which was ill-informed, Ramaphosa has said.

In responding to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), forum chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said she hoped the police had heard the president’s call for more respect for the media.

“We have been having discussions with them [government].

“We welcome the strong words of the president in affirming the media.”

In regards to the controversy around police officers and journalists, she said more discussions needed to be had but she lauded the advice coming from the president.

“The recent case of [editor] Paul Nthoba having to flee to Lesotho is one that has worried us for quite some time.

“Hearing from the president that he will be speaking to the minister of police to ensure that he [Nthoba] is safely returned, we are assured that nothing will happen to him. We really do welcome it and hope the men in blue were listening; that what we are doing plays an important and pivotal part, especially in regards to Covid-19.”

Ramaphosa, while fielding several questions from journalists, had earlier conceded that government could have handled the news on the U-turn on the sale of cigarettes better.

Smokers were left fuming after Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s announcement that the sale of tobacco products would not be allowed under level 4 of the lockdown after Ramaphosa had earlier said the exact opposite.

Ramaphosa said the flurry of concerns raised by experts had led to the decision to not allow the sale of tobacco products, which forced government to go back to the drawing board on its initial decision.

Since the president was the one who initially made the announcement on tobacco products, Ramaphosa said he should have been the one to announce government’s decision, to avoid any confusion.

The announcement by Dlamini-Zuma led to speculation that the minister was undermining the president, which was ill-informed, Ramaphosa said.

“We continue to follow scientific advice.”

The lockdown had served its purpose, he said, maintaining that its goal was to help slow down infection while allowing the country to prepare for the pandemic.

“Now we must rely on other tools.”

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