cigarette ban

Cigarette ban: Court makes dramatic u-turn, postpones case until August

BATSA’s urgent application to lift the cigarette ban will have to wait another month before it’s heard in court.

cigarette ban

British American Tobacco (BATSA) has revealed that its court case against the tobacco ban will only be heard again in August.

The company had taken the South African government to court over the ongoing ban on sales of cigarettes and other tobacco product, which has been in effect since the country went under lockdown in late March.

Cigarette ban could continue for another month 

The High Court in Cape Town was initially set to hear the urgent application to have the ban lifted on Tuesday but, according to BATSA, the court dates have been listed for 5 and 6 August.

The company has described the postponement, which will have a profound effect on the economy and jobs, as “inexplicable” and “worrying”.

“The shock news will, the company says, cost South Africa more than R1.4 billion and thousands of jobs as justice is delayed by almost six weeks,” BATSA said in a statement issued out on Friday.

British American Tobacco South Africa

BATSA weighs up legal options 

It comes despite BATSA and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma agreeing that the matter needed to be heard urgently.

BATSA’s head of External Affairs Johnny Moloto expressed concern at what he termed a “delaying of justice”.

“By the time the case is heard the ban will have been in place for four and half months during which time billions of illegal cigarettes will have been sold,” he said. “In this almost six-week delay alone the fiscus will lose more than R1.4 billion in excise tax alone as the massive cigarette trade tightens its grip on the country.

“Thousands of jobs stand to be lost in the economy as criminality becomes the new normal. We are considering all our legal options and will be liaising directly with the government, as we had both previously agreed that the matter was urgent and needed to be heard next Tuesday.

“Postponing a case that has been agreed, by both sides, to be urgent is something that we believe is unprecedented and is very worrying.”

Johnny Moloto, BATSA Head of External Affairs

BATSA’s legal challenge against the cigarette ban is the second such matter brought up against Government.

The other one – brought by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) at the High Court in Pretoria – is awaiting judgement after being heard earlier in the month.

Government says it implemented the cigarette ban in order to safeguard the public health system in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.