The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) says it understands that the court has to make a complicated judgment on lifting the ban on the sale of tobacco products.
The High Court in Pretoria has reserved judgment in an application by FITA to have the ban lifted.
The ban was implemented by government at the start of lockdown, over 90 days ago.
As frustration grows, an online poll demanding an immediate decision on the matter is gaining momentum.
FITA chairperson and attorney, Sinenhanhla Mnguni says, “As much as it may come across as straightforward, we understand that there were a lot of documents that the courts had to peruse and consider, I think something in the region of a 6000-page document.”
“Then factoring in the differences allayed by parties involved in the litigation. Looking at the sensitivity of the matter, it’s all speculation at this point, but this is the only thing I can think of as to why the judgment is taking so long, in as far as this matter is concerned.”
In this video below, the High Court in Pretoria hears the case on the lockdown tobacco sales ban Part 3:
Early in June Advocate Arnold Subel, for FITA, called the ban on tobacco sales irrational, draconian and an act of cruelty.
“We’ve termed it a draconian prohibition. A ban of this nature is probably the most dramatic of any measure that can be taken. It is difficult to think of anything more dramatic. Shutting down an entire industry causes enormous harm.”
He said the ban is affecting the most vulnerable in society.
“The poorest of the poor are the ones suffering the most because instead of spending money on hygiene and sanitation, improving the quality of life and buying food they will be paying black market prices now for these banned substances. That’s the world we’ve been driven into now and when spaza shops keep begging ‘please relax it because it’s destroying our businesses,’ it falls on deaf ears.”
Subel told the court that Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamin-Zuma seems to be determined to keep the ban in place despite a lack of scientific evidence to prove that smoking increases the severity of COVID-19.
“There have been studies in many countries that have been inconclusive. If you don’t know then you don’t have a basis to prohibit. If you don’t know you can’t do it on Section 27 and on what informed basis can you say it is necessary to impose the prohibition? It is new territory, but that is what they say. There is currently insufficient information to confirm any link between tobacco/nicotine in the prohibition or treatment of COVID-19.”
Advocate Marumo Moerane, arguing on behalf of Minister Dlamini-Zuma, said his client acted in accordance with the powers that the Disaster Management Act gave her.