British American Tobacco South Africa has demanded that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma amend regulations prohibiting the sale of tobacco products by Monday.
If the regulations are not rescinded, they will head to court.
This is according to a letter from law firm Webber Wentzel, on behalf of British American Tobacco (BAT), dated 30 April.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a new five-level risk-based approach to the lockdown last Thursday and explicitly stated that the sale of cigarettes would be allowed under Level 4 regulations, which took effect on Friday.
But, in an about-turn on Wednesday, Dlamini-Zuma announced that the ban on the sale of tobacco products and cigarettes would remain in place.
Dlamini-Zuma said this was done because 2,000 out of the 70,000 submissions on the regulations which they received from the public, requested the continued ban on tobacco products sales.
“Our client has been severely prejudiced by the prohibition on the sale of tobacco and vaping products. This prejudice has been significantly enhanced by the complete about-turn made by you regarding the lifting of the prohibition,” read the letter.
If it doesn’t receive confirmation from Dlamini-Zuma that the regulation will be reversed by 10.00am on Monday, BAT will lodge an urgent court application to review and set aside the regulation on the grounds that it is unlawful and irregular.
They claim the regulation was made without authority (ultra vires), was unreasonable, was included for an ulterior purpose and was reintroduced without a procedurally fair process.
“Having been prohibited from selling tobacco products and vaping products from the commencement of the lockdown, our client commenced preparing for the upliftment of the prohibition. In a very short period of time, over 10 000 orders were received from retailers wishing to sell tobacco products. The upliftment of the prohibition was celebrated not only by our client, but by retailers and consumers throughout the country,” read the letter.
On Wednesday, shortly after the announcement of the regulations, the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) said it would launch an urgent application over the government’s decision to continue the ban.