By John Fraser
I used to be quite good at debating, and alongside my chum Jim White (now a sportswriter for the Telegraph – what a waste), I won our university trophy.
I say this not to boast, but to suggest that when I am presented with the most outrageous arguments by someone whom we are supposed to respect and trust, I get a bit peeved.
I would fume, but that is now banned in SA.
Cigarette Czarina Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma (born 27 January 1949, in case you want to add her to your birthday card list), the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, told the nation yesterday (Wed) that an initial recommendation to lift SA’s Covid-19-related ciggie ban was now being reversed.
Some restriction will be relaxed from tomorrow, but the hopes of smokers are disappearing, er, up in smoke. Or not. You get my point, anyway.
The health arguments have not changed much as we move from Misery Stage 5 to Misery Stage 4, and there has been no discernible change since President Ramaphosa told us a week ago that it was being proposed – prior to a public consultation – that the ciggie ban would be lifted.
The new factor, we are told, appears to be the 2 000 people who have wailed, gnashed their teeth, and told the minister to ban the un-banning.
The cracks in Ms Zuma’s arguments are obvious.
Firstly, just a few days were allowed for the submission of tens of thousands of reactions to the Misery Level 4 proposals before the rapid gazetting of the new regulations. Days; not weeks; not months. Not enough time to seriously assess and seriously ponder all the submissions.
And secondly, it is not surprising that a lot of people objected to the lifting of the ban, and fewer praised it.
The main reaction was to what concerned people, not to what had come as a big relief.
We had been told by Oom Cyril of the proposal to lift the ban and this produced no objection from the pro-smoking, pro-liberty brigade. They did not see Mme Zuma lurking in the wings. They lit, held up, and waved their lighters in a moving tribute to our beloved leader.
So those in favour of the relaxation of the rules saw nothing to get excited about. They would soon be able to buy ciggies, tobacco, to put it all in their pipes and to smoke it. No excitement, no floods of comments. No objections, because it appeared there was nothing to which an objection was required.
To judge overall public sentiment from the response of the anti-smokers is therefore deceptive, misleading and irresponsible.
We hear there are tensions within the Cabinet, with Tannie Zuma on the ascendant, and Cyril now in the role of tea-maker, or something less demanding.
It seems that a nasty, dictatorial, intolerant, nanny-state is creeping in, and not in a nice-nanny way like Mrs Doubtfire or Mary Poppins.
So, let us keep up the pressure to get this absurd ciggie ban lifted, along with the other deeply-damaging ban on booze sales. These are depriving people of small pleasures during a period of mass misery.
Warn about the health concerns of excess or unsafe consumption, but show some common sense as well.
Don’t deprive the fiscus of desperately-needed taxes at a time when our economy is in the poo-poo, having just been hit by another downgrade: from junk to garbage.
Let us light the fire on behalf of smokers and drinkers, against these politicians and their weasel words.
A cloud of authoritarian has descended over our rainbow nation.
Common sense must be revived, dusted off, and given a seat at the table.
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