“This illegal trade is taking food from our mouths and killing our businesses.” These are the words of Zachariah Motsumi, spokesperson for the South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance, who blames government for an increase in illegal cigarette trading.
This, after government first banned cigarette sales during the first Covid-19 hard lockdown in March 2020 along with alcohol. SATTA believes this move has done more harm than good, giving birth to unauthorised traders across the country.
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Motsumi says the ban grew illegal trade to the point where legal cigarette sales are now outnumbered by the black market.
This makes it difficult to stay in business, SATTA believes, especially if government fails to aid tobacco farmers.
SATTA warns that illegal trading is destroying local industries, resulting in factory closures, job losses, and tax erosion. Also, a number of farmers have already gone out of business and many more are facing financial hardship as a result of rising market prices, which are heavily influenced by lockdowns.
“As a result of this, 20 to 30 farmers have given up tobacco farming and the industry is still suffering from the consequences of the unlawful ban. It will take some years for the industry to recover,” says Motsumi.