High Court to hear tobacco sale ban case today
Johannesburg – The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria will today hear the much-awaited court action by the Fair Trade Tobacco Association (Fita) challenging the legality of the continued ban of the sale of tobacco products during the national lockdown.
The case is expected to be heard by a full bench of the High Court. The case has been brought by Fita which seeks to have the ban on tobacco sales declared irrational and unlawful.
The sale of tobacco has been banned since the beginning of the national lockdown at the end of March. When the country moved from level 4, President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced that cigarettes would be sold. The decision was later reversed and announced by Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. The minister cited that the government had received 2000 petitions calling for the ban of tobacco to continue under level 4.
Fita filed court papers immediately in May following the decision. The ban was continued under level 3 with the government citing scientific reasons for the continued ban. Fita later amended its court action saying they were also challenging the continued ban of tobacco products under level 3. Fita’s case will be heard over two days, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The court application has been marred by controversy with reports that the state attorney on the matter has twice requested that the court case be postponed as Dlamini Zuma needed more time to incorporate evidence of why the continued ban of tobacco was for public health purposes. In their court papers, Fita chairman Sinenhlanhla Mnguni argues Regulation 27 of the then Level 4 and now Level 3 was ‘self-evidently irrational” saying it ignored a significant number of people who have tried to have their views heard on the ban.
“The regulation is exacerbating the already trying circumstances of millions of South African citizens who are already emotionally fragile and causing increased stress for them, Mnguni argues.
The government also faces another court case from tobacco giant British American Tobacco. BAT had last week filed papers at the Western Cape High Court seeking to have the ban of sales of tobacco lifted.
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