South Africans should not be given a criminal record just for buying a cigarette during the ongoing seclusion period.
This is according to Willie Aucamp, a DA member of the National Council of Provinces (NRP), who says the DA rejects the ANC government’s criminalization of normally law-abiding citizens.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said last week in response to a question from Aucamp that buying cigarettes during the seclusion period is a crime and should therefore result in a crime record.
“The ANC government’s position on the issue is at best small and insensitive. In my question to the Minister, I mentioned the consequences of a crime record, such as losing your job and therefore your income and not being able to apply for another job because you are addicted to nicotine, ”Aucamp said.
He said the government should decriminalize the use of tobacco products and fined those who violated the rules only during the isolation period.
“With rising unemployment and a weakening economy against the backdrop of a global pandemic, South Africans should not worry about the consequences of a crime record just because they bought a cigarette.”
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa didn’t have much good news for smokers either. He said in response to an online question on Wednesday night that the ban on cigarettes would be lifted “someday”.
Aucamp says this lack of a clear timeframe will cause even further anxiety for smokers who have been unable to buy tobacco products since March, when the isolation period was set.
“Although many South Africans have turned to the illegal market, many have simply waited for the ban to be lifted for fear of the consequences if they make illegal purchases.”
Aucamp says the government has also not yet provided any real evidence on how the ban on cigarettes will suddenly make years of smokers more immune to Covid-19. He says the withdrawal symptoms experienced by smokers can have a far greater impact on their health even before they possibly contract the new viral disease.