Smokers have expressed outrage over government’s decision to uphold the ban on the sale of cigarettes during the nationwide lockdown.
Wednesday night, Co-operative Governance Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced that the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products will remain banned under level-4 lockdown regulations. This is despite the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week that sales would be allowed when level 4 kicks in on Friday.
The command council discussed the possible lifting of the ban on cigarettes and decided that it should not be allowed for health reasons, the Minister explained.
Currently, South Africa has an estimated 11 million smokers. While the government says the decision to extend the ban is due to health concerns, smokers are now looking for alternate ways to get their hands on cigarettes.
These smokers who spoke to SABC News, say the ban has forced them to now purchase cigarettes from the illicit trade at inflated prices.
“For a smoker, it’s like now the people are in rehab for cigarettes and alcohol. And if you get it then you’re getting a cheap one and you’re paying like R70 or R80 for a pack. The thing is that if you got it if the police get you, then they are taking it away.
“It’s been hard now because we are addicted to smoking so this thing is killing us and now if they keep on extending like this the prices if you get it back doors it’s expensive which means now it’s going to go more up which means we going to die,” a smoker explains.
A number of people have been arrested in Gauteng for allegedly trading in cigarettes in the last few weeks. In one instance ten suspects were nabbed with R1.5 million worth of cigarettes.
TAX Justice South Africa (TJSA) has condemned government’s decision to extend the ban. TJSA founder, Yusuf Abramjee says the extended ban will have a detrimental impact on the country’s economy.
Abramjee says, “The National Command’s u-turn on the decision made by the president last week, flies in the face of all evidence emerging from the world about the lockdown and the implications. The criminals are smiling all the way with this announcement. They probably partying as well because government is going to continue losing R35 million a day for taxes for cigarettes alone and this is really a very big disappointment.”
In this video below, CoGTA briefs the media on COVID-19 Level 4 restrictions:
FITA heading to court
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) says it intends to head to court over governments backtracking on the sale of tobacco products.
FITA chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni. “We definitely are going to court. We are consulting with our legal team to discuss the way forward on this issue. As far as strategy, I don’t think anyone can dispute the harmful effects of cigarettes and smoking the problem that we are facing is that the regulations in as far as currently stand have actually not stopped people from smoking. What happened is the government’s efforts in the past few years of combating the illicit trade are in essence coming to nought. Illicit cigarettes are coming through our borders at alarming rates. The government is losing billions in as far as what could’ve been used to contribute to the fiscus and fighting the virus. On a constitutional basis, people should have a choice whether to smoke or not.”
Below is a risk-adjusted strategy for economic activity document:
Under the regulations alcohol will also not be sold, exercise will be permitted between 6am and 9am and people must exercise with five kilometres of their homes and are not allowed to exercise in groups.
Hairdressers and beauty salons will remain closed and all citizens except for workers of industries that will reopen must remain at home.
A curfew will also be implemented between 8pm and 5am.
INFOGRAPHIC: COVID-19 levels: