Informal Traders call on the government to lift cigarette ban
The South African Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) has implored government to rethink the ban on the sale of cigarettes.
Saita represents an industry that provides employment and income to one in every six South Africans. They have warned that if the cigarette ban endures until lockdown level 1, many informal traders will be left destitute.
Informal Traders call for an end to cigarette ban
The organization warned that the ban was putting the squeeze on traders who rely on cigarette sales for a large portion of their income.
Saita President Rosheda Muller said that for many traders the only aid currently available to them is the R350 per month COVID-19 government relief, which is woefully inadequate.
“Government is turning legitimate informal traders into beggars, smokers into criminals, and illicit tobacco dealers into billionaires,” said Muller.
Government’s callous disregard for Informal traders
Muller says that government has been callous in its disregard for the informal sector, adding that many traders feel alienated and no longer trust authorities.
“Where millions of traders were previously able to operate with dignity and confidence, knowing they were contributing positively to the economy, and importantly, their families, their ability to trade has been ripped from them by a government that is unwilling to listen or to consult.
“This will have a profoundly negative impact on their livelihoods, their dignity and their trust in Government.”
Muller said that Police Minister Bheki Cele was out of touch with the reality of township life in declaring that anyone caught smoking in public would be asked to produce proof of purchase. Saita further questioned Cele’s zeal in pursuing smokers which seems disproportionate to the risks posed by cigarettes.
“Firstly, we think government has forgotten what it’s like in townships, when last did they see a cash register on an informal traders’ table?
“Secondly, why is the government, and especially the SAPS, so obsessed with the sale of cigarettes? Their focus should be squarely on protecting the nation and its people instead of interfering in their ability to put food on the table.”
Dlamini-Zuma: hero or villain?
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who heads up the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), has drawn the bulk of public ire, with some observers convinced that her influence has kept the cigarette ban in place.
Petitions to have the ban lifted and to have Dlamini-Zuma removed from office have circulated through social media, but ANC leadership has described them as a calculated effort by the tobacco industry to undermine government efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis.
Double danger: Dlamini-Zuma ‘also wants alcohol banned until Level 1’
ANC secretary-general Jessie Duarte issued an emotional attack on the industry in response to the latest petition, for the removal of Dlamini-Zuma, which has garnered nearly 175 000 signatures.
“I wish to protest against the attack on minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma by what is clearly a well-orchestrated tobacco industry trying to make sure we are driven into a deeper crisis during a period when we are facing a health crisis that attacks people’s respiratory organs,” said Duarte.
“Here is an industry who over [the] years have exploited the health of many people across the world. And today they find it easy to chain up petitions and ask people to sign and believe that is how one removes a minister of state.”