South Africa’s tobacco makers have given Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma an ultimatum to amend the regulations that prohibit the sale of tobacco products by Monday or face legal action.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the sale of cigarettes would be allowed under Level 4 regulations, however, on Wednesday Dlamini-Zuma announced that the ban will remain in place.
British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) said in a statement it was “seeking urgent clarity on the decision-making process that led to the government imposing an indefinite ban on the legal sale of tobacco products.”
“The minister cited 2 000 individual submissions received as a reason for this action,” said BATSA.
“This was, in itself, bizarre and highly irregular, principally because she did not give the tobacco industry, retailers, tobacco consumers and others supporting the lifting of the ban, the opportunity to comment on the proposed reinstatement of the ban. This was grossly unfair and unlawful.”
BATSA asked Dlamini Zuma to confirm that the regulation would be amended by Monday at 10 am, failing which they would “bring an urgent application to court”.
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) told Saturday Star that it was confident of overturning the ban, having decided to proceed with legal action after government’s backtrack.
“We had a meeting with our legal team and the decision was unanimous and we will be proceeding with the legal steps as far as the decision that was made by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs,” said chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni.
“We are convinced with the papers we have prepared, and the case will be a compelling one.”
Meanwhile, Shadrack Sibisi, chairperson of the SA Tobacco Transformation Alliance (Satta), which represents black emerging tobacco farmers, told the Saturday Star that the continued ban would impact more than 8000 workers and 30000 dependents.
“The tobacco industry contributes R36million a day in taxes and now 100% of tobacco sales will go to illicit dealers, they are running amok. We ask who is benefiting out of this?”
He said Dlamini Zuma’s reasoning that smokers would share cigarettes was flawed. “We have been told about social distancing and washing our hands. Why does she think people will continue to share cigarettes, it’s a real insult to their dignity.”