The cigarette ban may have ended last August, but Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is refusing to ease up in her battle against the courts. The COGTA Minister is challenging a decision handed down in the Western Cape, which essentially invalidated a ban on tobacco sales and prevented the government from automatically instituting another one.
The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) brought legal cases against Dlamini-Zuma, and after a few setbacks, they were able to secure a ruling in their favour. As it stands, the government cannot announce a cigarette ban as a mitigation measure for COVID-19, unless it is fully approved by the judiciary first.
“Government will have to bring a new court application to ban tobacco sales if they decide it is necessary. However, that application would have to have facts saying that the situation had changed,” said FITA.
Dlamini-Zuma, however, isn’t a particular fan of this handbrake being applied. She is fighting for the right to restore the power she enjoyed in the first part of lockdown, where the ANC veteran was able to announce new tobacco laws after Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation. The infamous ‘when people zol’ briefing introduced a five-month cigarette ban.
On Monday, the Cape Town High Court granted Dlamini-Zuma the right to challenge the ruling made against the government. Her lawyers say there is ‘prima facie’ evidence that can turn the verdict on its head – and if they build on this first success, the authority to bring back the cigarette ban would rest with NDZ and her colleagues once more.
The cigarette ban was in place for more than 140 days in total, and its legacy is certainly up for debate. Very few people stopped smoking as a result of the decision, and a black-market boom helped ignite the illicit tobacco market. Billions of rand in tax revenue have also been lost, and smokers still see Dlamini-Zuma as ‘public enemy number one’.