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By Citizen Reporter


SAPS says cop telling people ‘smoking is a crime’ was out of line

A South African Police Service spokesperson has rubbished reported comments by a KwaZulu-Natal police captain to the effect that smoking itself has been banned during the lockdown.

The Zululand Observer last Friday quoted the spokesperson for the King Cetshwayo police cluster, Captain Mbongeni Mdlalose, as saying: “People are not supposed to smoke … if you are found smoking, it is still a crime … government clearly stated that smoking is not allowed.”

This was in an article about the rise of the illicit tobacco trade in the face of the current sales ban.

Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo yesterday said Mdlalose was “out of order”.

“Smoking is not prohibited. It’s only the buying and selling of cigarettes that’s prohibited,” Naidoo said.

Stores were forced to clear their shelves of cigarettes and tobacco products in March, when the national lockdown took effect and the sale of non-essential items was banned.

Many had hoped when the lockdown moved from Level 5 to Level 4 this month, they would be able to buy cigarettes once more. But Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the last minute announced this would not be the case and that cigarette and tobacco product sales would remain banned.

This prompted British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) – the largest cigarette manufacturer and distributor in the country – to threaten court action. Batsa ultimately withdrew that action, saying it had “decided to pursue further discussions with government on the formulation and application of the regulations under the Covid-19 lockdown”.

In the meantime, though, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) is challenging the ban in the High Court in Pretoria.

Fita secured a partial victory last week, when government agreed to allow the manufacture and export of tobacco products. The association is, however, still pursuing the resumption of general sales through the courts.

It wants access to the minutes of the National Command Council meetings at which decisions were taken around the lockdown regulations and, specifically, the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products.

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