Worrying and alarming.
This is how Johnny Moloto, head of external affairs at British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa), describes the latest delay in the government’s application for a ban on the sale of tobacco and related products.
After weeks of waiting for a hearing date for Batsa’s case against the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs, Dr. Finding and confirming Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma changed the dates again.
In the latest statement from Batsa, he confirms that the case will only be heard in the Cape Town High Court on August 5 and 6.
The “shocking news”, the company says, and the six-week delay will cost South Africa R1.4bn and endanger thousands of people’s jobs.
Batsa received correspondence on Friday morning that the case will only be heard in the next court term. The court’s quarterly recess begins next week and will last until the end of July.
This comes after all parties involved agreed that the matter should be heard on 30 June on an urgent basis.
“The delay in the administration of justice and the outcome of the issue in question is inexplicable. By the time the case is heard, the ban has been in effect for four and a half months, with the result that millions of illegal cigarettes will be sold at this time, ”Moloto said.
“In this six-week delay, the Treasury will lose more than R1.4 billion in excise duty as the massive illegal cigarette market tightens its grip on the country,” said Moloto.
He also argues that thousands of people are at risk of losing their jobs in an economy where criminality is becoming the new normal.
“We are considering our legal options and will contact the government because we have both previously agreed that the matter is urgent and should be heard next week.”
Delaying the case after both parties agree that it is urgent is “unheard of and extremely disturbing”.
On June 1, Batsa filed an urgent application against the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the National Covid 19 Command Council and the President.
Batsa and eight other parties are requesting a court order that the level 3 regulation prohibiting cigarette sales be declared unconstitutional and invalid and set aside.
A cost order is also demanded against the minister, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and any other respondents who oppose it.
The application was due to be heard on June 22, but due to a request by the parties that a full bench of judges should hear the case, a hearing date was only confirmed on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the ruling in the case that the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) has also brought against the government is still expected. A full bench of judges heard the case about two weeks ago and reserved judgment.