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Batsa makes U-turn on taking legal action against tobacco ban

It will work with government to ensure the safety of South Africans.
British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) no longer want to pursue taking on the government on cigarette ban. Image: Gillianne Tedder/ Bloomberg News

British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) has changed its mind on taking legal action against  government to lift the tobacco ban during the national lockdown period.

It has decided to pursue further discussions with the government on the formulation and application of the regulations under the Covid-19 lockdown.

Batsa gave the government until 10am on May 4 to provide clarity on why tobacco products have been banned indefinitely, after government’s about-turn on lifting the tobacco ban. President Cyril Ramaphosa initially announced that sales could continue under level 4 lockdown on April 23, but later Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma reversed the decision.

The tobacco company says it received the response it was expecting from the ministers in the National Command Council, and it has “taken the decision not to pursue legal action at this stage.”

Batsa said it supports the government in its mission to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“We believe it is vital that there is a renewed and stronger effort under level 4 to permanently close down the illegal supply lines of tobacco that have been established over the past number of weeks. Reopening the legal, taxed and regulated tobacco market must be part of the solution,” says Batsa.

It emphasises that cigarettes should only be sold in established retail outlets where the government’s correct social distancing guidelines can be enforced.

“At the moment, smokers are putting themselves and their households at further risk of the virus by moving around in search of cigarettes being sold by illegal traders,” says Batsa.

Illicit crime on the rise

It says it will be working together with the government to find a better solution that works for all South Africans and removes the threat of criminal sanction from 11 million tobacco consumers in the country.

It also lambasts the overwhelming rise in the illicit trade of tobacco during the lockdown.

“[It] continues to be of great concern and threatens the livelihood of many who depend on legitimate businesses to sustain themselves,” says Batsa.

The South African Revenue Service Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said on Tuesday that there could be a shortfall of R285 billion in tax revenues this year.

Prior to the lockdown illegal trade in cigarettes was costing South Africans more than R10 billion a year.

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COMMENTS   27

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No rush anymore.

People have stocked up and have months worth of supply now as there is no indication of when it will open again if ever.

Prices have gone up from R250 per carton to R450 per carton but better safe than sorry I guess.

People will be smoking the illicit cigarettes for a long time to come.

But how have prices gone up when there’s been no sale/demand due to restrictions?

Black market. Illicit Cigarettes.

Demand has remained the same as ever.

There is a huge demand for illegal cigarettes, some cartons going for R900. If you are not a smoker you wouldn’t know about it. You can get smokes anywhere, just make sure cops aren’t watching

There will always be demand and sales, no matter how you try and stop it. So it’s the prices of the illicit trades that goes up as supply decrease.

Think about that question.. 11 million smokers, a restriction on sales, no demand?

The smugglers are becoming richer and the law abiding citizen poorer

Brought to you by the ANC!

Wise move mr Rupert. #Strategy!

Look I will not be surprised if they also benefit from the illicit trade.

I mean then they do not have to declare duties and excise taxes but still work the supply side ne!!

I also agree that big business are spineless and are only screwing their shareholders through all their kow-towing to the whims of the government !!!

No tweet from the mighty SAB as well ne !!!

Wise move from Johann Rupert. #Stategy!!

At R450 thats cheap. The going rate where i come from is R650 for 10 packs of 20’s..

You want one pack?

Sure, the Pakistani’s are selling Courtleigh 10’s for R65 and they don’t even pay income tax let alone BAT!

Want to become rich? Move to SA and get involved in the illicit trading of commodities

It’s safe and lucrative as the ANC Government don’t mind losing the revenue providing you register for BEE and involve the local authorities

Kieswetter better make a plan..His R285 billion revenue loss will soon accumulate 4 fold with his cronies at the helm!

Is it possible that BAT worked out there is a much higher profit margin if they join the illicit trade for the duration of the lockdown?
They will surely know the players and the how the network operate.

Maybe BAT has seen the prices on the illegal cigarettes skyrocketing and think its better to hold back for a bit.

In a few weeks they can be 10 times cheaper and win all their lost customers back from the illicit trade.

Red wine between R150 and R200 a bottle. Not to bad for black market.

In the meantime Capone and friends are coining it.

Quasi:

I presume you have not seen how the security works at BAT. They had dual per truck live view satellite tracking before SA had cel phones. Tobacco is essentially cash

I am not surprised at all. The mighty COMMUNIST party can BUY everything and anyone. Even YOU who milked the public with the SUPPLY of cigatettes at already HIGH prices, enriching yourselves. Now that the damage is done and 11 million people are addicted to YOUR product, you SELL them out. Shame on you Rupert !!!

Typical. One of the biggest causes of the economic destruction, even before the lock-down, was the spinelessness of big and medium businesses. Even as the regime was destroying the economy, none of them wanted to grow a pair and speak up. I am starting to think that business also gets the government it deserves.

This is meaningless. When will there be progress – no details given as to a timeline.
Only response applicable is WTF Batsa, have you idiots not learnt a lesson via the first about turn!!!???

Apparently has not heard of: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

Perhaps I should start to plant tobacco in my back yard!

(I will become a “google How To” farmer..)

Let everyone do it that has lost recent employment, and we flood the market with home-made cigarettes (and push the profits of illicit dealers down)

My one will be sold as MATLOSANA GOLD brand name (sorry, that’s now taken *lol*). Will aim to have a Blue and Red in my range…

I think it is far more profitable and not even remotely illegal to grow, distribute or smoke GUNJA in your back yard!!!!

I’m buying copper piping, barley and oak barrels….guess what my new business is going to be…

Make sure you get your illegal BEE rating for your illegal enterprise first and don’t forget no whites please!

This is what you get when you have a vindictive bunch of idiots pretending to be a government. Big business becomes scared to voice any criticism as they think they will be victimized in future. This is true in sOuth Africa where the governing mamparras are openly opposed to business.
We are truly in desperate times, and not only because of the virus but mostly because of the bunch making the rules.

Taking government to court?? WTF do you go to a gunfight with a plastic knife???

They had no chance at all, too many government people making too much from the illicit trade.

And the judiciary is captured

So now illicit trade can boom. The more the anc and Rupert think they can stop it by trying to make illegal supply and demand less, the more it will become.

Sounds to me like they buckled.!

End of comments.

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