Cigarettes ‘may be off-limits until August’, amid legal hurdles
For the millions of smokers in South Africa, it is looking less likely that cigarettes could be in line for a swift return. Several court cases raised against the tobacco ban are struggling to break the legal deadlock, and according to one prominent activist, a final decision on the matter may only be heard in August.
The British American Tobacco (Batsa) case has already been pushed back after it was scheduled to start on Monday. Bev Maclean, who has been fighting the prohibition of cigarettes alongside several civil society organisations, says she received an email from the company’s lawyers explaining the delay.
It is alleged that the courts are still trying to appoint three judges who can serve on the bench for this case. Those representing Batsa, according to Maclean, are hoping to get this case heard by the end of the week – but if they’re unsuccessful, a hearing date may not be delivered “until August“.
“On the 18th the legal teams received an email from the Judge President’s registrar indicating that the Judge President had agreed to the appointment of three judges, but said that he was setting the matter down for hearing in the first week of August.”
“A further communication has been directed to the Judge President in which the urgency has again been stressed and pressing for a hearing on either Thursday 25 or Friday 26 June.”
Meanwhile, the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) expects to soon receive clarity from their individual case against the banning of cigarettes. It’s been almost two weeks since the court adjourned in Pretoria, promising to deliver a verdict in due course. Patience is beginning to run thin, however.
Fita explained that the judge in their case has 6 000 pages of paperwork to rifle through before announcing a decision, so a short delay was to be expected. We’re likely to get a result from Fita’s challenge before any of the other complainants, but should this fail to topple the tobacco ban, it’ll be down to British American Tobacco’s case to lift the restrictions.
Unfortunately for smokers, this is the one currently tied up in a minefield of litigation, and it could be another six weeks before Batsa can clear all the major hurdles to get their case heard properly.
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