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.
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 businesses, 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 Service Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter estimated that more than 80 million dollars had been lost due to illicit trade in alcohol and cigarettes during the lockdown.
President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted the government had received numerous legal challenges from individuals, religious bodies, political parties, NGOs and business organisations since March.