The march against the ban of tobacco products went up in smoke on Tuesday morning as it was nipped in the bud by police before it even started.
Smokers were about to march onto the Union Buildings lawns in Pretoria to demand the ban of tobacco products to be lifted. But a heavy police contingent had been waiting…
According to the public order policing officers, gatherings remain prohibited under level 3 lockdown regulations.
“Gatherings are prohibited except for funerals and to go to work,” an officer was heard telling some of the protesters.
But the agitated smokers claimed government was violating their constitutional right to protest.
One of the protesters, Brendan Marshall, reluctantly left the march after police threatened arrest.
“I think it is my right to be here and I have the right to speak up and [police] are violating my human rights. I will have to leave because I don’t want a [criminal] record to my name and I am young and still have a future,” he said.
Wouter Machlener was frustrated that government had a say in what citizens could put in their bodies.
Speaking to The Citizen while being chased to his car by a police officer, he said: “I believe the government is infringing on our personal liberty and sovereignty of individuals. I don’t think it’s about cigarettes any more. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell me what I can and cannot put in my body.
“I also don’t think the reasons provided by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her cronies are reasonable, sufficient and rational. They haven’t considered the effect of this on the mental health of smokers.”
The protest was expected to commence across the country including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg, Witbank, Durban and Mossel Bay.
According to their Facebook page, Protest Against The Tobacco Ban, smokers demand that: “Our rights to dignity and choice be respected. If our demand is not met, we will continue to protest against this ban. This movement will grow, we will become more creative.”
Meanwhile, British American Tobacco South Africa, the country’s largest cigarette manufacturer as well as Japan Tobacco International SA and eight others, have legally challenged the ban, with the matter expected to be heard before the Cape Town High Court on 22 June.
Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association is expected to battle the tobacco ban before the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Afrikaner-rights organisation AfriForum had last month written to the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs to threaten court action should the tobacco ban not be lifted.