FITA Press Release 07 October 2021

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Press release – FITA – for immediate release

We note with serious concern the latest allegations in the media that a British American Tobacco affiliated group has donated equipment worth millions for use by the South African Revenue Service (“SARS”).

This story comes hot on the heels of serious allegations of inter alia corruption, state capture and money-laundering against the aforementioned cigarette manufacturer.

Further, there have recently been a host of allegations against this particular manufacturer of non-compliance in the form of, amongst others, cigarette smuggling and tax evasion.

We therefore find the decision by SARS to accept this equipment from the multinational quite concerning and, in this regard we hope that SARS Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, will take the public into his confidence and explain the rationale behind the decision to accept the equipment from the BATSA-associated group by SARS.

Whilst FITA fully supports all efforts by the state and affected industry stakeholders to curb smuggling and the illicit trading in cigarettes, we are of the firm view that irrespective of the motive for the donation, SARS, particularly given the competitive nature of the tobacco industry, cannot be seen to be getting into bed with any single player in isolation in this industry.

This particularly in an industry where there has been evidence, at least in the past, of preferential treatment of some multinationals by state organs including but not limited to:

  • The escorting of their vehicles by law enforcement agents;
  • Attendance of senior government officials at their conferences;
  • Attendance of senior government officials at the business premises and factories;
  • Their influence on policy and the enforcement of laws by various law enforcement agencies.

This evidence suggests that the collaboration between multinationals and/or their agents with state officials and departments is incompatible with Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of which South Africa is a signatory. It is now very obvious that some of these multinational manufacturers have been using their so-called “collaboration” with government officials and bodies on so-called anti-illicit trade to:

  • Circumvent‎ the strictures of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project. This they achieve by using so-called “cooperation” with authorities as a “Trojan Horse” to gain influence and access to areas of tobacco control which, were the provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control enforced, would be outside their reach.
  • To position and “present” themselves as part of the “solution” to end all illicit tobacco trade and thereby increase their ability to influence policy in this area and to attempt to keep intelligence and law enforcement actions on the illicit tobacco trade under their control and focused anywhere else except on themselves.

We therefore call on government to ensure that all its departments and officials conduct their interactions with the tobacco industry strictly according to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

We also firmly believe that the days of multinationals having some sway over how the state directs its powers, actions and resources in the economy should now come to an end.

Issued by Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association Chairperson: Sinenhlanhla Mnguni   07 October 2021

For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 072 720 7919; e: Monique@fita.co.za

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