A handful of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) generals might regret lighting up a cigarette during fallen African National Congress (ANC) stalwart Andrew Mlangeni's funeral on Wednesday 29 July after internal disciplinary action was taken against them relating to their conduct.
The high-ranking generals were caught on national television enjoying a smoke next to the hearse carrying Mlangeni's body, and outrage followed as South Africans far and wide condemned the act of hypocrisy as smokers toil under the nationwide ban on the sale of cigarettes.
SANDF officers facing conduct inquest
Now, strictly speaking, the generals didn't do anything illegal. The cigarette ban, which was controversially imposed at the start of South Africa's nationwide lockdown in March, pertains only to the sale of tobacco products. It does not restrict one's right to smoke, although it's doubtful that the men in question were so prudent as to have stockpiled the ciggies since they were legally allowed to be bought.
It stands to reason that they, like most of South Africa's smokers, procured the products through illicit black market channels.
Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed that the generals will undergo an internal probe during his crime statistics announcement on Friday 31 July.
"I spoke to the Defence Minister [Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula] yesterday [Thursday 30 July], who said internal disciplinary action has been taken against soldiers smoking there," Cele said
"In the army that is called a negative order. Once you have a negative order, there is some form of discipline going forward, and that has already happened."
'Cigarette smoking not illegal' – Cele
Cele said that smoking itself is not banned, but warned that his forces would like to know where the cigarettes you're smoking came from, and suggested that his prior consideration to demand a receipt of purchase may come into effect.
"Smoking is not a crime," he said. "This thing of smoking and receipts keeps coming. We have arrested a lot of people carrying cigarettes. We have arrested… cigarettes worth about R1.8 million."
"If you carry cigarettes in bulk [or] the cigarette is in your car, we would love to know where you found the cigarettes."
"The sale of cigarettes is not allowed, so the purchasing of cigarettes cannot be allowed if the sale is not allowed."