SCA dismisses govt's bid to overturn tobacco sales ban ruling

In December 2020, the Western Cape High Court declared the ban to have been both unconstitutional and invalid, on the back of an application brought by British American Tobacco South Africa.

FILE: The ban had threatened the stability of the entire tobacco value chain, the judge said, leaving tobacconists unable to trade and informal traders forced to close shop. Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has dismissed government’s bid to overturn the 2020 ruling, which found the controversial tobacco sales ban implemented in the early stages of lockdown to have been unconstitutional.

In December 2020, the Western Cape High Court declared the ban to have been both unconstitutional and invalid, on the back of an application brought by British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA).

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - under whose hand the ban was effected - then lodged an appeal with the SCA, which was heard in March.

The appellate court handed down its ruling on Tuesday. It, too, has now been found in BATSA’s favour.

Judge Ashton Schippers, who penned the SCA’s ruling, said the minister was obliged to show the benefits of the ban exceeded the harm it caused - and that she hadn’t.

The ban had threatened the stability of the entire tobacco value chain, the judge said, leaving tobacconists unable to trade and informal traders forced to close shop.

Tobacco farmers, meanwhile, had no buyers and their livelihoods were also placed in jeopardy.

The court found the ban unjustifiably limited the rights to dignity, bodily and psychological integrity, freedom of trade and property.

It ruled on the extent to which these rights were limited - particularly against what the court found was a “lack of factual and scientific evidence”.