A huge showdown in the courts is due next week, when Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and British American Tobacco (BATSA) are scheduled do battle over the contentious cigarette ban. The industry giants have gone four months without being able to sell their products, as the government continues to enforce the prohibition on smoking.
What to expect from Dlamini-Zuma's court showdown with BATSA
We've already seen the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) challenge Cabinet, and twice fall short. They are petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal, but face an uphill battle from here. BATSA, however, will still fancy their chances – given that the government owns shares in the company and any bitter fallouts could cause an entirely separate financial nightmare.
The group is adamant that the cigarette ban is 'irrational', and in court papers submitted this week, they argue that the four-month lockdown of tobacco sales has failed to achieve any of its desired goals. They also take aim at Dlamini-Zuma's ability to justify the regulations.
The crux of BATSA's arguments centres around individual rights and personal freedoms. The cigarette ban clashes with the Constitution when it comes to civil liberties, and this is a line of attack that had some success in court last month – the Liberty Fighters Network successfully used this argument to invalidate certain lockdown laws.
Cigarette ban: What BATSA will argue in court
However, nothing can be taken for granted, and the titans of tobacco will need to make an extremely compelling case if they are to turn the tide against a government that has remained fiercely stubborn on the subject of smoking. But BATSA believes the following arguments will be enough to overturn the cigarette ban:
There is 'overwhelming evidence' that only a small fraction of smokers have quit, defeating the cigarette ban's purpose.
- The regulations have 'proved to be irrational' due to to the booming black market sales in defiance of prohibition.[*]The benefits on which Minister Dlamini-Zuma relies 'would still be heavily outweighed by the harm caused by the prohibition' – both economic damage and mental health issues have been listed.[*]BATSA say the cigarette ban 'violates Constitutional rights', by taking away the personal choice to smoke.[*]The ban of sales also contravenes protections of 'bodily integrity' – making decisions on behalf of individuals.[*]'No other country in the world' has seen its healthcare system overrun due to a high volume of smokers.[*]Crucially, there is 'a significant lack of studies' that link smoking to COVID-19 susceptibility or vindicate a cigarette ban.