Legal action looms over government's U-turn on cigarette sales

South Africa’s leading tobacco manufacturer gave government until 10am on Monday to respond or face legal action.

Picture: Pixabay.com.

JOHANNESBURG - Businesses, organisations, and civil society are closing in on government with many turning to the courts to have the ban on cigarette sales overturned.

South Africa’s leading tobacco manufacturer gave government until 10 am on Monday to respond or face legal action. British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) is seeking urgent clarity on the decision-making process that led to government imposing an indefinite ban on the sale of tobacco products.

The COVID-19 national command council - headed by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - last week went back on its decision to lift the prohibition under level 4 lockdown regulations.

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The move was met with further opposition from the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), which is expected to file court papers on Monday.

FITA withdrew its legal challenge after the president’s announcement that the sale of cigarettes would be permitted.

The association’s chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said: “We are going to be challenging the rationale behind the ban on the sale of cigarettes on a number of grounds. The U-turn on the sale of cigarettes is not procedurally just.”

A petition, which gained momentum following government’s U-turn, has also been circulating on social media with over 470,000 signatures.

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