Data emanating from the World Customs Organization indicate that tobacco illicit trading was on the rise, with nearly 70% of cigarette seizures taking place.
Not a month goes by without the South African Policy Service (SAPS) apprehending illicit tobacco traders. Under COVID-19 regulations, South Africa was the only country in the world to have placed a ban on tobacco sales.
A 48-year-old suspect, entering South African borders from Zambia via Botswana, was apprehended at Kopfontein Port of Entry by SAPS. 152 master boxes of cigarettes with an estimated value of R4 256 725 were found in his possession.
In a separate unrelated event, two men were also arrested at the Beitbridge Border Post for smuggling illicit cigarettes worth almost R7m. Over 520 boxes were found hidden inside a petrol tanker.
Vexed with the state’s belligerence to ban tobacco sales, the South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) has launched a national campaign to end cigarette ban.
“More than 296 000 people relied on the free flow of activity across the tobacco value chain for their livelihoods. Their jobs, and those of their dependents, have been directly threatened by the ban on cigarette sales” it said.
The South African Revenue Services (SARS) stands to lose on sin tax, as the illicit tobacco industry generates roughly R8 billion and more.
“It is totally unacceptable that a legitimate, taxpaying business sector should be taking to the brink of ruin in such a way, and we call on government to immediately lift the ban and allow cigarettes to be sold in the same way as before the lockdown” said SATTA.
SATTA furthermore said its campaign was to unite tobacco workers, farmers, processors and manufacturers alongside retailers. The campaign is run across social, digital and print media.-