Protest against tobacco ban postponed to next week
'We want the government to taste our emotion and feel what we are feeling'
A group advocating for the lifting of the ban on tobacco products has postponed a planned march, saying it was doing so to make an "even bigger impact".
They have vowed not to back down until the ban is lifted.
The group's founder Duncan Napier said the march, which was initially planned for Tuesday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and in two other areas, has been postponed to next Tuesday June 2.
Napier said it will be a nationwide march.
“We are postponing the event for an even bigger impact. This event was originally only meant to be for Cape town. This is bigger than anticipated. To do it tomorrow would have softened our voices. It would be disrespectful to you. We want to be loud. We want to be heard. We want the government to taste our emotion and feel what we are feeling,” he said.
Napier said the ban on cigarette sales was failing in what it set out to do, and rather than stopping smokers from smoking, it was setting up an illicit market.
“More people are sharing cigarettes as the price has skyrocketed. People also travel far and wide to purchase cigarettes, which also continues to expose the public to this virus,” he said.
Napier said no proof had been submitted on a possible connection between smoking and the number of infections and deaths.
He said despite the ban, people were still smoking but were forced to be criminals by buying illegal cigarettes.
“We need this ban lifted ASAP as it is an infringement on our human rights. We will not back down until this ban has been lifted. We have asked, begged and pleaded and it has fallen on deaf ears. We will now stand up for our rights.”
Tax Justice SA (TJSA) founder Yusuf Abramjee said the extension on the ban rewards criminals and endangers citizens.
“With their decision to extend the irrational and unworkable tobacco ban, the national command council has written a blank cheque for criminals and robbed the South African people of billions of rand that could save lives,” he said.
Abramjee said all evidence showed that the vast majority of smokers had not stopped during the lockdown and were simply buying on the black market. He said the ban was failing in its sole stated purpose.