Protest against tobacco ban to be held at Union Buildings: here's what you need to know

'We, the people of South Africa, have had enough'

03 July 2020 - 11:38 By Unathi Nkanjeni
A peaceful protest by smokers for the lifting of the ban on the sale of tobacco products is set to take place on Saturday at the Union Buildings.
A peaceful protest by smokers for the lifting of the ban on the sale of tobacco products is set to take place on Saturday at the Union Buildings.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

A group supporting the lifting of the ban on the sale tobacco products, including cigarettes, has organised a “smokers' protest”. 

The group Dear Mr President said it has had enough of the  ban and vowed not to back down until it is lifted.

Here is what you need to know:

Public protest

According to the group, the smokers' protest will take place at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Saturday from noon.

Dear Mr President's founder, Nj Hourquebie, said the public protest will be a “peaceful protest gathering, not a march” with the hope it influences the government to ease the restrictions on tobacco sales.

“The idea is to assemble in near silence, make our presence known for an hour and then disperse,” said Hourquebie.

'Can no longer be ignored'

In a message posted on Facebook, Hourquebie said the protest was to show the government that smokers can no longer be ignored.

“We, the people of South Africa, have had enough,” said Hourquebie. “People are dying, and the economic and mental anguish they are causing will take years to overcome.”

“For 90 days the government has chosen to ignore the voices of a large population under the guise of 'protecting our fragile health system'. The national command council has chosen to base their decision on flawed science. They don't care about us,” Hourquebie said.

Illicit cigarettes

Hourquebie claims some people are selling  household belongings to buy illicit cigarettes at exorbitant prices.

“These are people who are having to choose between food and cigarettes. These are people like me and you.

“Enough is enough. Let us unite and assemble on the steps of government buildings across the country to show them we are no longer willing to stand idly by while our rights and freedoms are stripped from us,” said Hourquebie.

Protest guidelines 

Hourquebie asked that protesters adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Wear a black armband for people and businesses that have died at the hands of government;
  • Observe social distancing to remain safe, wear a face mask and take hand sanitisers;
  • Bring banners with names of people who have lost their incomes or a local business that has closed its doors because no aid was available to them;
  • Those who can't make it must take a selfie and upload it with the hashtag #SmokersProtest;
  • No rioting, looting and antagonistic or aggressive behaviour should be shown to observers, police officers or members of government.

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