Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (NDZ) and President Cyril Ramaphosa will approach the Western Cape High Court and appeal its ruling that the ban on tobacco trading was unconstitutional.
The ban was initially put in place during hard lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, reports TimesLive.
According to the Cape Argus, the 40-page application for leave to appeal read, “The minister’s justification for the regulation was to reduce the incidence of smoking and hence its “real target” was the consumers of tobacco products.”
It also stated that the court had made a mistake in finding that the regulation (Regulation 45) limited smokers and vapers’ rights to human dignity (it denied them the choice of purchasing such products).
The papers further read, “This finding is irreconcilable with the fact that the regulation does not prohibit the use of tobacco or vaping products, let alone its uses in the privacy of smokers and vapers’ homes, as well as the fact that the regulation imposes a ban on trading in tobacco and vaping products.”
The government, as reported by the publication, also stated that the court had made a mistake in finding that the regulation infringed on the right to choose the trades of tobacconists and tobacco farmers (tobacconists were not permitted to trade and tobacco farmers were unable to sell a majority of their crops).
They stated, “Despite the regulation, persons could still choose those trades or occupations with the reasonable expectation that when the worst of the Covid-19 crisis had passed, they would be able to practise them as fully as ordinarily permitted.”
NDZ and Ramaphosa went on to say that the court “was not consistent in its approach to expert evidence.”
The case was brought before the court last year by tobacco traders, which included British American Tobacco SA (Batsa), states TimesLive. The judgment was delivered in December.
“We feel that this step by government is regrettable given the irreparable harm to the tobacco industry along its value chain which was occasioned by the 5 month-long ban on the sale of cigarettes and tobacco-related products for consumption by the local market,” said fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association Chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, as written by the Cape Argus.
“The ban has led to the exponential and unabated growth of the illicit cigarette market, which issue has the knock-on effect of increased losses to the fiscus as less taxes are collected by the receiver.”
More restrictions coming?
There are rumours of more restrictions and perhaps a reversion to a harder lockdown when presidential spokesperson confirmed that President Ramaphosa will be meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council tomorrow.