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Press Release

War against corruption displaced by war on cigarettes

Tuesday 26 May 2020 – THE irrational and unworkable ban on cigarettes is helping the architects and agents of State Capture to evade justice.

Tax Justice SA founder Yusuf Abramjee says today: “Government agencies trying to prosecute gangsters and politicians looting South Africa say they can’t do their job because of the financial impact of the lockdown.

“Yet the shortfall in their budgets could easily be met if ministers fulfilled their job of collecting taxes due to the nation.

“Instead, the National Coronavirus Command Council has chosen to impose an irrational and unworkable tobacco prohibition on cigarettes that is costing the Treasury R35 million every day.

“This money is being diverted into the pockets of criminals in the illicit economy who were allowed to plunder state coffers during the ruinous years of State Capture under Jacob Zuma.

“Politicians pushing the ban claim it is for health reasons. It is doing wonders for the health of bank balances belonging to crooks in the illicit trade; but it is starving our ailing economy of the funds needed to combat our epidemic of crime.

“Our nation-saving war against corruption has been displaced by an unnecessary war against cigarettes.”

The Department of Justice and its entities – notably the corruption fighters, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Public Protector – have told MPs that a Covid-related budget cut of R1.7 billion is on the cards and could cripple efforts to put high-profile figures in organised crime behind bars.

“Two months of the tobacco ban have robbed the state of more than R2.1 billion in lost excise duties,” says Mr Abramjee. “Yet smokers continue to smoke and illicit traders continue to reap the rewards.

“More than 230,000 citizens have been arrested for violating lockdown regulations, yet not a single arrest has been made for 10 years of State Capture.

“If ministers were truly concerned about protecting law-abiding South Africans they would focus on catching and locking up the villains robbing us of a decent future.

“Instead they have chosen to turn 11 million smokers into criminals and will be demanding to see their till receipts while the real crooks siphon their ill-gotten fortunes into offshore bank accounts.”