Press release – FITA – for immediate release
FITA notes with concern a new strategy, in addition to the plethora of other failed strategies that is being driven by an organization which represents foreign interests, and which misleadingly claims to represent the legal tobacco sector in South Africa, and some of its members. This strategy, based on the biased and industry-commissioned Ipsos Report has as an objective to attempt to influence law enforcement agencies through inter alia the intentional misrepresentation of facts. This is in order to direct law enforcement agencies towards our members as was done in the past through the undue influence multinational tobacco manufacturers and their representative bodies had over key law enforcement agencies such as Crime Intelligence and the SSA, and which influence led to the disbandment of key units at institutions such as SARS, which units were beginning to uncover non-compliance on a large scale by these multinationals.
As previously indicated, we have in our possession volumes of documents, recordings and affidavits which point to elements of state capture in the past by big tobacco, on which elements we are taking advice from our attorneys as to whether we may approach the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in order to provide evidence of said state capture.
The aforementioned strategy by big tobacco seeks to mislead law enforcement agencies by intentionally misrepresenting inter alia a 2015 judgment in the Eastern Cape High Court by the Honourable Revelas J which, when applied to the facts of that particular matter ruled that “On the probabilities, the respondents are trading in contravention of the Tobacco Products Control Act, the Customs and Excise Act and the tax laws of the country. The R80.00 charged per carton of cigarettes is in contravention of section 4A of the Tobacco Products Control Act, 83 of 1993”. The Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (“TISA”), to suit their narrative has misrepresented to inter alia parliament that the judgment ruled that tobacco products selling below the tax owed must be illicit. The aforementioned judgment clearly pertained to a particular matter, and the ruling was made on the probabilities due to deficiencies in the respondents’ evidence in that particular matter only. This matter did not set any form of legal precedence and was not a reported judgment.
This is clearly a blatant distortion of the facts in an attempt to mislead law enforcement agencies to ONCE AGAIN dance to the tune of big tobacco to the detriment of local manufacturers, their employees, and families. We find this conduct to be shameful to say the least, but we cannot say we are surprised given the desperation of big tobacco of late to keep a stranglehold on a shrinking market. This is particularly in light of the fact that they misled inter alia a key parliamentary committee wherein other key stakeholders were regrettably not invited to give a more holistic view of industry dynamics.
TISA’s approach shows a blatant and/or intentional misunderstanding of the informal trade, where most of our member brands are sold, and its sole purpose is to direct law enforcement agencies and resources towards our members and their employees, and to subject them to undue harassment.
FITA has in any event gone on record publicly to state that it supports the introduction of a blanket minimum exit price in relation to the sale of cigarettes and urge government to consider this as a possible solution to the problems presented by the illicit trade in cigarettes.
We therefore call upon government and law enforcement agencies to resist at all costs any form of assistance from industry in relation to matters where the policing of industry itself is at heart. This would in any event be in contravention of the World Health Organisation’s (“WHO”) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (“FCTC”) to which South Africa is a signatory, and which statute inter alia prohibits influence of the tobacco industry on signatories.
FITA is perfectly aware of the problems faced by the tobacco industry as a whole and urges government and its various spheres to consider all aspects that lead to losses to the economy and to not descend into the arena of what is in essence a battle for market share.
FITA would further like to urge journalists to be aware of these tactics and to consider all aspects that lead to losses to the economy and to not become the public relations arm of some within the industry.
Issued by the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association: 7 March 2019
For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 072 720 7919; e: Monique@fita.co.za