- The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association's legal bid to have the ban on cigarettes overturned will be heard in court in June
- South Africans are not buying the government idea that tobacco poses the biggest threat to people's health
- Lobby groups are adamant that South Africans have not stopped smoking but have simply found unlawful alternatives
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Two months into the Covid-19 lockdown, the South African government faces a multitude of court challenges and the biggest one yet is the the legal challenge to the cigarette ban. The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) has begun a legal bid to have the government's cigarette ban overturned.
Court documents published by FITA list the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as primary respondents.
The matter between the state and FITA is expected to be heard in the High Court during the week of 9 June.
The government banned the sale of tobacco during lockdown as a way to preserve the health of the nation but the people aren't buying into this idea. What is happening is that people are still smoking as usual and are simply buying tobacco at exorbitant prices on the black market.
EWN reported that nearly 90% of South African smokers are still getting cigarettes, despite the ban on tobacco. South Africa is one of three countries is the world to oppose the sale of tobacco during the Covid-19 lockdown period, with India and Botswana being the other two.
READ ALSO: Legal battles loom as political parties, NGOs take government to court
While Dlamini-Zuma has argued that the government's decision to ban cigarettes was informed by scientific research, FITA argues that this explanation is inadequate and seeks to overturn the ban.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma has been at the forefront of opposing the sale of tobacco and her stance has been called into question after revelations of an alleged relationship with smuggler Adriano Mazzotti came into light.
The COGTA Minister has also been at the receiving end of criticism, not just from SA smokers but the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), which has filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court, compelling parliament and the executive to exercise their "constitutional powers".
Briefly.co.za reported that Dr. Dlamini-Zuma's opposition to the sale of tobacco has been seen as suspicious by South Africans who have learned of her friendship with Mazzotti.
FITA isn't alone in its corner. Tax Justice South Africa, a movement against the ban on cigarettes, says that the country is losing R35 million a day in taxes and South Africa's 11 million smokers are breaking the law to get the fix.
A full bench of judges will hear the case in early June and smokers have to wait with baited breath for the outcome.
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