Legal battle over ban on sale of cigarettes drags on as online petition gains momentum
Cape Town - The court battle over the ban on the sale of tobacco products was dealt a setback late last week when lawyers for British American Tobacco South Africa (BAT SA) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) were informed that the Western Cape High Court would not hear their case this week as they had originally requested.
The lawyers acting for BAT SA and JTI were informed on the 18th of June by the registrar for Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe that while their request for the case to be heard before three judges had been granted, the matter was initially set down for for the first week in August but has "been brought forward, hopefully to the 30th of June," said Bev Maclean, the Gauteng woman who has been campaigning relentlessly for the ban to be lifted.
Maclean, whose online petition calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to lift the ban, has garnered nearly half-a-million signatures, said she has faith in the judicial system and is confident of a positive outcome despite the delays. Support for the petition is steadily growing as the government stands by its ban while relaxing regulations on the sale of alcohol as well as opening up the leisure and beauty industries.
"The delays are very frustrating, and I, just like my 640 000 petitioners, who are all taking financial strain and paying these exorbitant prices for illicit cigarettes, is becoming an absolute nightmare," Maclean told IOL.
Meanwhile, judgment the case brought by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) against the ban ealier this month has been reserved, with no indication given as to how long the court will deliberate. Last week, FITA told the Saturday Star that it was confident its lawyers had set forth a compelling case and that it would receive a favourable outcome from the North Gauteng High Court.
"Many can no longer afford to buy and are suffering terrible withdrawal symptoms. A week to someone in distress feels like a month, so I can only imagine the frustration our smoker nation and their families are feeling. Have you noticed, the man in the street always suffers while government haggle over unnecessary and vindictive bans?"
Maclean said she would continue to campaign for the ban to be lifted and also to highlight other instances where she felt an injustice had been done.
"I will continue with my petition, as I have developed a great rapport with my petitioners and send out updates on a regular basis. I have also started a Facebook Group called Let our voices be heard SA," Maclean said.
"I intend to use both these platforms to highlight other injustices in our country, where our rights have been or are being violated and I urge people to join us in our causes for democratic freedom."IOL