British American Tobacco (BATSA) has said the court hearing on the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products will be pushed out by a further six weeks. BATSA said it received communication on Friday 26 June that the application being brought by it and others against the ban has now been listed for 5 and 6 August.
The company described the decision not to consider an urgent application to lift the national ban on the sale of tobacco as “inexplicable” and “worrying”.
This is despite BATSA agreeing, on the instructions of the Judge President, with the State President and COGTA Minister, that the case should be heard on 30 June. BATSA said that all applicants and Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had agreed that the matter was urgent and needed to be resolved as soon as possible.
“This is why all sides agreed that the hearing should be scheduled for Tuesday, next week, and why all court papers had been filed by Wednesday 24 June,” BATSA said.
Instead, the company said it received an email on the morning of Friday 26 June that the case has been delayed by almost six weeks into the next legal term.
“Having received the extremely strong replying papers from the applicants, the state president and Cogta have done a total volte-face and now want the matter to be heard on 5 and 6 August – this despite their acknowledgement that it is urgent.”
“This delaying of justice and a resolution of this issue is inexplicable,” BATSA’s Johnny Moloto said.
“By the time the case is heard the ban will have been in place for four and half months during which time billions of illegal cigarettes will have been sold.”
Massive tax losses
BATSA highlighted the significant tax losses faced by the country in continuing the national ban on tobacco sales as a reason for the urgency of the application.
In this almost six-week delay, the fiscus will lose more than R1.4 billion in excise tax alone as the massive cigarette trade tightens its grip on the country, the company said.
“Thousands of jobs stand to be lost in the economy as criminality becomes the new normal. We are considering all our legal options and will be liaising directly with the government, as we had both previously agreed that the matter was urgent and needed to be heard next Tuesday,” BATSA said.
“Postponing a case that has been agreed, by both sides, to be urgent is something that we believe is unprecedented and is very worrying
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