COVID-19: Tobacco giant to take legal action against sales ban by South Africa

British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) on Friday announce that it would begin urgent legal proceedings to challenge the government’s continued ban on tobacco sales during the coronavirus lockdown.

South Africa has started easing its lockdown measures, allowing sales of alcohol from Monday. However, a ban on sales of tobacco will remain in place.

The government has cited health reasons for the ban, but human rights and leaders say it has dire consequences for addicts and the already flailing economy.

BATSA’s head of external affairs, Johnny Moloto, said that the continued ban was threatening the survival of the legal tobacco sector as well as livelihoods of those it employs.

“The ban has only succeeded in significantly growing a massive and nationwide illegal industry at the direct expense of law-abiding , citizens and taxpayers,” Moloto said in a statement.

He added that the treasury was losing about 2 million dollars in excise taxes every day the ban continued.

South African Revenue Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter estimated that more than 80 million dollars had been lost due to illicit trade in alcohol and cigarettes during the lockdown.

South Africa has earned praise for its rapid to the pandemic, but also criticism of its strict regulations and brutal enforcement the police and army.

President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted the government had received numerous legal challenges from individuals, religious bodies, political parties, NGOs and organisations since March.

South Africa had 27,403 confirmed cases , of which 14,370 have recovered and 577 have died.(dpa/NAN)