Reasons for cigarette sales ban do not pass rational muster, Fita says
The reasons provided by co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for prohibiting the sale of tobacco products from May do not pass rational muster, lawyers for the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association told the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Fita was in court to ask that the court review and set aside two regulations passed by Dlamini-Zuma, banning the sale of tobacco products.
Dlamini-Zuma is opposing the application.
Addressing a full bench headed by Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo, Arnold Subel SC for Fita, said Dlamini-Zuma had failed dismally to provide reasons for the ban on the sale of cigarettes.
South Africans have been unable to purchase cigarettes since the start of the nationwide lockdown on March 26 2020. The restaurant business has been severely affected by the lockdown and some of those in the industry who are now jobless have resorted to trading illicit cigarettes as a means of survival.
Subel said Dlamini-Zuma's plan had been to get people to stop smoking because, according to her, if they cannot get access to tobacco, they will stop smoking.
“There is no realistic prospect in the real world of Dlamini-Zuma being able to stop people from smoking.”
Mlambo told Subel that in her answering affidavit in the case, Dlamini-Zuma had mentioned that if 1% of the 8-million smokers require health assistance, this would overwhelm the health system.
Subel said the statement was hypothetical and there were no facts to support it.
“Of the 1% of smokers, she does not mention how many of those have comorbidities,” Subel said.
Subel also took issue with the fact that President Cyril Ramaphosa had told the nation on April 23 that sales of cigarettes would resume on May 1, when the country moved to level 4 of the lockdown, but there has been no explanation from him about the U-turn.
Subel said the president should be the person giving reasons on the U-turn.
The application continues.