Press release – FITA – for immediate release
We commend the efforts of the South African Police Service Klerksdorp for their detention of a large quantity of smuggled cigarettes which were destined for the South African market despite the ban on the sale of cigarettes for the duration of the lockdown period.
We implore law enforcement agencies and government to ensure proper policing at our borders particularly during a time like this where opportunists are looking to capitalize.
It is well documented that we have written to government and its various departments asking them to reconsider the ban on the sale of certain non-essential goods including cigarettes. The current ban, although implemented with good intentions, inter alia sets back the previous efforts of industry and government in combatting the illicit trade.
The current situation will only help to strengthen the networks and resources of these criminal syndicates, particularly in light of the recent lifting of restrictions on the movement of non-essential freight across the country’s borders.
We have also previously highlighted the increases in incidents of break-ins and thefts from shops and storage facilities which stock these “non-essential” goods such as cigarettes. This not only vitiates government’s intention of limiting the movement of the citizens of this country as much as possible, but also leads to citizens resorting to acts of criminality in order to source of some of these banned “non-essential” goods.
We have no doubt that this will in turn feed underground markets and overload an already struggling and overloaded criminal justice system if the numerous role players behind the illicit trade during the lockdown period were to be apprehended by law enforcement agents.
As industry stakeholders we are no doubt grateful for the news of today’s bust, but at the same time we remain concerned that illicit goods were able to enter the country’s borders with relative ease.
We in any event remain hopeful that government will accede to our repeated requests for meaningful engagement on this issue so that a logical solution can be found in relation thereto, keeping in mind the sensitivities of the situation we currently face.
Issued by Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association Chairperson: Sinenhlanhla Mnguni
6 April 2020
For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 072 720 7919; e: Monique@fita.co.za