NATIONAL NEWS - The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association’s (Fita) abandoned part of its urgent application scheduled for yesterday after government conceded to provide a record of the National Coronavirus Command Council’s (NCCC) reasoning to uphold the ban on tobacco products under Level 4.
The association said its court application was split into two parts and that it was happy with the concessions, but would now proceed with Part B of the application which would deal with, among other matters, the decision to ban the sale of cigarettes.
Fita chair Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said it received correspondence from the office of the state attorney last Thursday confirming what it had argued all along: that the current regulations permitted all forms of manufacturing, and further permitted their members to export.
“Our member factories are operating again under the conditions as stipulated by the regulations,” he said yesterday.
Mnguni said their members could now produce and export cigarette and tobacco products but the money for the fiscus was way below what would have been made if local sales were permitted.
He said they had also requested minutes and records of the NCCC’s decision to promulgate the current regulation 27.
In a letter to Fita, Presidency director-general and Cabinet secretary Cassius Lubisi indicated that the minutes would not be made available, saying these were classified.
Mnguni, however, said government had requested two weeks to provide the agreed documentation and that this would result in an unnecessary delay of the hearing of Part B of the application.
“The promulgation of regulation 27 of the current regulations should be struck out and that the Disaster Management Act did not empower the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to enact such a regulation and she is acting ultra vires (beyond her powers),” he said.
He said the tobacco industry, like many other industries, would not be able to sustain the losses during the lockdown much longer.
“The further difficulty in this regard is that the illicit trading of cigarettes is thriving and the criminal syndicates behind these goods will be able to grow their networks and resources, making it difficult for the legitimate industry to compete on equal footing once the ban on the sale of cigarettes is lifted,” he said.
Johann van Loggerenberg, former head of enforcement at the South African Revenue Service (Sars), shared Fita’s sentiments, saying transnational crime syndicates have started targeting South Africa and in some instances connected with local syndicates.
“Traditional drug syndicates and gangs have added cigarettes to their products,” he said. – email@example.com