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Press Release

U-turn on cigarettes is economic sabotage

Wednesday 29 April 2020 – TAX Justice South Africa (TJSA) condemns tonight’s announcement of an extension to the cigarette ban as “life-endangering economic sabotage”.

TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee says: “The National Command Council’s U-turn on the decision made by the President last week flies in the face of all evidence emerging from the world’s strictest lockdown.

“The ill-thought prohibition of cigarettes is impoverishing the nation, enriching criminals and destroying the public’s faith in the lockdown.

“The Government is throwing away R35 million every day in taxes at a time when its citizens are starving. Meanwhile, criminals are pocketing that money by luring South Africa’s 11 million smokers to the black market.

“This is life-endangering economic sabotage that hands trade to the organised syndicates who flourished under SA’s decade of ruinous leadership.

“Illicit cigarettes are flooding the market at massively inflated prices, delivering no tax to the country and actively increasing the movement of people – the very thing the lockdown is supposed to prevent.

“Government knows the illicit economy is booming. Earlier this week, a report by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) found that one in four informal settlement residents have been able to buy cigarettes, and illegal traders have been cashing in nationwide.

“The HSRC recommended that urgent measures be taken to combat the problem of illegal trade. But Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s announcement contradicts that advice, spurns vital revenue and permits crime to thrive.

“Those crooks and gangsters who thought their free run was over when President Ramaphosa announced lifting of the ban last week are still very much in business. They will be partying tonight.”

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