'Ongoing tobacco ban will turn informal traders into beggars, criminals into billionaires'
The SA Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) has called on the government to lift the ban on cigarette sales under level 3 of the lockdown, warning that a continued ban until level 1 will put informal traders on the streets.
The alliance, the national voice of informal trade in SA, added that an ongoing ban would add to government's already enormous social grant burden and turn “legitimate informal traders into beggars and illicit tobacco dealers into billionaires”.
Cigarette sales make up a sizeable portion of the average informal traders’ sales, and in many cases, 100% of sales. Banning cigarettes would put millions of South Africans at risk, and rob them of their dignity, it said.
It pointed out that informal traders can only access the R350 per month Covid-19 government relief, and don’t have access to the other assistance provided to formalised SMEs or bigger businesses.
“Government is turning legitimate informal traders into beggars, smokers into criminals, and illicit tobacco dealers into billionaires,” said Rosheda Muller, Saita’s president. “Where millions of traders were previously able to operate with dignity and confidence, knowing they were contributing positively to the economy, and importantly, their families, their ability to trade has been ripped from them by a government that is unwilling to listen or to consult. This will have a profoundly negative impact on their livelihoods, their dignity and their trust in Government.”
Muller once again called on the National Covid-19 Command Council to immediately unban the sale of tobacco.
Saita also slammed police minister Bheki Cele's statement that police would demand 2-month-old receipts from smokers, saying that this was totally ridiculous in the township setting.
“Firstly, we think government has forgotten what it’s like in townships, when last did they see a cash register on an informal traders’ table? Secondly, why is government, and especially the SAPS, so obsessed with the sale of cigarettes? Their focus should be squarely on protecting the nation and its people instead of interfering in their ability to put food on the table.”