Call to lift ban on cigarettes, non-essential goods as SA waits for Ramaphosa's speech
Pretoria – As President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to address the nation on Tuesday, Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA) urged him to take bold but simple steps to boost morale in South Africa and to help fill state coffers, which have been reduced during the lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The organisation, led by outspoken activist Yusuf Abramjee, called on Ramaphosa to allow supermarkets, fuel station stores and spaza shops to sell their full inventory of goods and to allow the transportation of South African-produced goods for export.
“South Africans are suffering enough already, without having to stress about what goods are deemed essential. If people are allowed to visit the store, what they buy there has no impact on the spread of the virus. Petty rules about what is off-limits only undermine the credibility of the lockdown and make it less likely to be adhered to,” said Abramjee.
“The financial impact of the cigarette ban alone is devastating, as it costs the Treasury R35 million a day in lost excise revenues. South Africa’s 11 million smokers feel persecuted and illegal traders are cashing in.”
Abramjee said despite the ban on the sale of cigarettes, illicit cigarettes have flooded the South African market.
“Illicit cigarettes are flooding the market at massively inflated prices, delivering no tax to the country and actively increasing the movement of people – the very thing the lockdown is supposed to prevent. Almost R1 billion has already been lost at a time when the people and the country need it most,” he said.
“Any hindrance to the export of SA goods is also costing us dearly right now. With the rand at historically low levels, we could be bringing in much-needed revenue and establishing markets that will help us to recover from this crisis. TJSA is therefore advocating that the transport be allowed of all South Africa-produced goods for the purposes of export.”
Abramjee said Ramaphosa has shown “great leadership in this unprecedented crisis” and South Africans have shown respect through enduring “the strictest lockdown in the world for 26 days”.
“But it is clear now that everyone is feeling the pain, and the poorest are feeling it the hardest. The economy has also been in lockdown and the money to ease that pain is in short supply,” said Abramjee.
“Tonight is an opportunity for the president to fine-tune his lockdown rules to keep the people on board and the economy turning.”
Ramaphosa was due to address South Africans on Tuesday evening on economic and social relief which constitutes a national response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
African News Agency (ANA)
* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's special #Coronavirus page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za