Bloemfontein – Smokers at the ANC’s national conference in Bloemfontein are being treated like royalty.
A tent, reminiscent of a stylish cocktail lounge, has been set up next to the media centre as the smoking room for journalists.
The air-conditioned perspex-walled marquee was filled with black and white sofas, chairs and ottomans with a scattering of red and grey throw pillows, and grey shaggy carpets.
The tent was lit up by hanging lights and red lamps on little side tables next to the lounge seats.
Amongst the sofas were white tables, with British American Tobacco SA (Batsa) branding, and bar stools. On each table was a vase with red flowers inside.
In August, the Constitutional Court turned down a legal challenge by Batsa against a ban on smoking advertisements.
The court declined Batsa’s request to hear an appeal of a judgment upholding the ban by the Supreme Court of Appeal in June of this year.
Reporters at the Mangaung conference were so impressed by the room that even the non-smokers said they would spend time in there.
An African National Congress official said the room was sponsored.
Two cigarette vending machines and water coolers had been placed in the tent.
There were also flat screen televisions with Batsa branding screened on them.
Hostesses walked around emptying ashtrays while soft background music was played.
A woman who walked into the lounge was in awe of the set-up.
“This is a stunning place,” she said as she looked around.
Another woman said: “I’ve never seen a smoking area like this.”
The ANC-led government is renowned for its tough anti-smoking laws.