The Democratic Alliance (DA) strongly urges President Cyril Ramaphosa to end the continued ban on alcohol and tobacco sales which according to media reports will be discussed during a cabinet meeting this week.

Since the ban on tobacco sales was instituted 139 days ago and an alcohol ban which was brought back without any warning or consultation, it is believed South Africa has lost up to R8 billion in taxes from these industries.

This is roughly 11.5% of the R70 billion loan that we had to go and beg the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for.

There has also been a tsunami of job losses in both industries which run past 100 000 jobs lost and more than R10 billion worth of investments that have been pulled from South Africa.

While the idea of these bans had started off well-intentioned to build up healthcare capacity, it is clear that they quickly morphed into an ideological battleground within the ANC and national cabinet, with President Ramaphosa being reduced to a mere spectator while his ministers repeatedly contradicted him on these issues.

We have also been told repeatedly that the government is being “led by the science” on both of these bans and yet the “science” is just not with them to continue this prohibition going forward.

In fact, the President and his Ministers are now in stark opposition to what our leading scientists are telling us, and that is to drop the bans on alcohol and tobacco immediately.

In truth, the biggest winners during this national debacle have been cigarette smugglers and liquor bootleggers who have made billions of Rands while the state has criminalised ordinary South Africans for buying cigarettes and alcohol. Whose side is the government really on?

In the end, President Ramaphosa will have a chance to choose South Africans first this week, save livelihoods in these industries and to divert police resources to catching real crooks like ANC politicians who have stolen Covid-19 funds which should have been used to buy PPE, instead of unleashing the police to lock up people for buying cigarettes.

It remains to be seen, will President Ramaphosa choose South Africa over the wishes of the ANC and his ministers playing ideological roulette? Only time will tell.

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