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Mixed messages confusing

Image: 123RF/skycinema

A cursory read of the Sunday press yesterday suggests that our courts are about to get very busy in the next few days.

There appears to be a groundswell of opposition to many of the regulations imposed by the national lockdown in its current form.

From the tobacco industry, education bodies and the DA, lawyers have been briefed to challenge the government's decisions communicated last week.

Bolstering this legal challenge is no doubt the government's own clumsy handling of its message in the last few days.

At one point, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced tobacco could be sold.

Days later that decision was revoked, causing uproar from an industry that contributes billions of rand to the GDP.

Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu suggested on Twitter that although the national command council had taken a decision to allow the sale of cigarettes, upon reflection, it later changed its mind - something it is allowed to do.

"The president fully agreed and endorsed the non-sale of tobacco as an outcome of the consultation process," he tweeted.

Be that as it may, the trend of inconsistency is a worrying one.

The bungling of the message around schools reopening raised similar concerns.

Officials said one thing to parliament only for minister Angie Motshekga to change tune a day later, leaving parents and schools across the country anxious about whether the government was in fact able to provide a safe learning environment.

There are many other examples where government's message appeared as though the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing.

Indeed, the constitutionality of the regulations may be tested in court. However, regardless of the outcome of the legal battles, the government must be mindful of the impact of inconsistent communication and flip-flopping on its decisions.

This behaviour undermines the public goodwill extended by most citizens at the beginning of this process. Most importantly, it undermines the spirit of cooperation which is vital in the fight against this pandemic.