Tobacco giant British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) is commencing urgent court proceedings to challenge the government’s decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales during level three of the covid-19 lockdown.
The multinational cigarette company had earlier decided not to pursue a legal challenge after initially issuing an ultimatum to government to clarify and make public the reasoning behind the ban on cigarette sales.
While Batsa and the Black Tobacco Farmers Association (BFTA) then opted to continue talking to government in an attempt to solve the problem, the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) went ahead with a court challenge.
“Batsa has made every effort to constructively engage with the government since the ban came into force, including making detailed submissions, along with other interested parties, various ministers, as well as directly to the Presidency,” the company says in a statement.
“To date, no formal response has been received from the government, and BATSA has also not been included in any of the government’s consultation processes so far.”
Batsa is joined in the court action by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) as well as other representatives of the tobacco value chain, including consumers, tobacco farmers and retailers, the statement says.
Johnny Moloko, Batsa’s head of external affairs, said that the company has always stated their support for the government’s measures to put the country under lockdown in order to buy time for building an extensive public health response.
“The government’s continued ban on legal tobacco sales is threatening the survival of the legal tobacco sector and the livelihoods it directly supports. It has only succeeded in significantly growing a massive and nationwide illegal industry at the direct expense of law-abiding businesses, citizens and taxpayers.”