There is a new glimmer of hope for smokers and tobacco farmers. The Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) has lodged an urgent appeal to the court’s dismissal of their application to overturn the ban on tobacco last week.
Fita went head to head against government in the Pretoria High Court and challenged its controversial decision to continue to ban the sale of tobacco products under national covid-19 lockdown regulations.
Fita argued that tobacco was addictive and as such should be declared an essential product. The court found that this argument held no merit and moved to dismiss the motion against government.
Fita chairman Sinenhlanhla Mnguni has confirmed that the association lodged its appeal to the Supreme High Court today.
“We have lodged an application to appeal the ruling in the judgement that was handed down last week before the full bench of the High Court. We have received acknowledgement of receipt from the court and will keep the public informed in as far as when the matter is most likely to be heard,” he says.
Black tobacco farmers suffering
The South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) has voiced its concern over the plight of black producers in the industry. The situation is dire as the black farmer continues to suffer due to the widely controversial ban, says spokesperson Zacharia Motsumi.
South Africans have not been able to purchase tobacco products legally since the end of March. They have been forced to turn to the black market for cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Farmers will begin planting season in September and the continued silence over when the ban will be lifted is deafening, says Motsumi.
“We are uncertain about how to prepare for planting, because nobody has answers to when the ban will be lifted. We really do not know when the ban on cigarette sales will be lifted and when we will be able to trade normally again,” says Motsumi.
This week Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa assured smokers that they will be able to “puff and pass” legally soon. He however remained mum over exactly when.
Motsumi says that the continued ban has diminished the efforts of black producers who are trying to prosper in the industry.
“We really have no sense of our future.”
“We are concerned that a large number of tobacco farmers, particularly black farmers, may have gone out of business by the time that happens.
“Surely that can’t be what the government wants? Do they really want criminals to thrive and prosper, and law-abiding farmers and producers to go under?” he questions.
The entire value chain of the tobacco industry has suffered severely, he says. The decision by government is “ironic”, as it is those who are obeying the law that are bleeding money, he adds.
“The illegal tobacco producers are making millions every day, while the legal producers are losing every day.”