About 400 smokers from around Gauteng participated in the second peaceful protest convoy against the government’s cigarette ban from Boksburg to Benoni on 25 July.
Smokers United SA organised another protest as they believe government did not pay enough attention to their first convoy on July 8, which was supported by approximately 200 protesters.
The aim of the protest was to convince government to overturn the ban on cigarette sales during the lockdown.
From as early as 8.30am, the group gathered at Wild Waters before embarking on a slow drive convoy along the N12 to a Benoni market while blowing the hooters of their vehicles.
Other motorists also hooted to show their support while the police helped to control traffic.
Protesters wore orange masks and tied orange balloons to parts of their vehicles signifying that they have been criminalised for their choice to smoke.
There were also green ribbons which were used to express their grievances against farm murders.
Smokers popped the balloons at the end of the convoy to symbolise how they felt when government took their right to smoke away.
According to Linda Barnard, one of the organisers from Smokers United SA, they decided to take action by showing the government that their voices matter because they have been silenced for too long.
“Our insistence on the dropping of the ban is not solely based on us wanting to smoke but also those thousands of formal cigarette traders who have lost their jobs. We are also voicing for those people who are now paying a lot of money for cheap cigarettes.
“We want the government to listen to us, and we will continue to voice our opinions until that happens. We don’t want to burn tyres or hurt anyone, we just want to spread the word,” Barnard pointed out.
She thanked the smokers for participating in the protest and the police for assisting them during the convoy.
Another organiser, Trevor Terblanche, previously said he started Smokers United SA a week after the ban to get all smokers together so they can raise their grievances.
“I find the reason behind the banning of tobacco sales irrational and unconstitutional. We have submitted a memorandum with about 650,000 signatures to the government and Mike Waters from the DA.
“We have let law enforcement know about the protest, but, unfortunately, they couldn’t accompany us because they said it’s against the lockdown regulations,” Terblanche said during the first protest.
The memorandum read: “In respect of the lockdown you have violated most if not all constitutional rights found in the Bill of Rights. You have taken away our freedom of choice, our freedom to protest and our freedom to voice ourselves.
“You discriminate against smokers, saying they are at higher risk than anyone else. You violate section nine of our constitution and we are no longer all equal before the law.
“We are in favour of the government to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.”
One of the protesters, Roché Pepler, said the ban was taking away jobs and opportunities in the county.
“We joined the protest to stand up for everybody’s rights. Not everybody can afford illicit smokes and are forced to stop smoking, which is leading to depression and causing domestic violence to increase in South Africa. We will stand together and make a difference in the most loving way we can,” she said.
The Covid-19 Command Council banned the sale of tobacco products when the lockdown was instituted in March.
This article first appeared on Benoni City Times and was republished with permission.