PRETORIA, South Africa – Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA) on Sunday came out in support of an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet in which tobacco industry players and retail outlets highlight the “devastation” caused by the 100-day coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown tobacco ban and urge #TheBanMustFall.
“We back the letter as a timely reminder of how the [Covid-19] lockdown tobacco ban is destroying the livelihoods of honest workers while criminals in the illicit trade get rich,” TJSA founder Yusuf Abramjee said in a statement.
One hundred days of the ban had already cost the national fiscus R3.5 billion in lost excise taxes alone. That was money desperately needed for healthcare, education, and food for millions of South Africans who were being pushed to starvation.
Tax Justice SA fully supported the letter’s call for the ban to be lifted immediately, and would join #TheBanMustFall campaign. The letter, which was printed in a national Sunday newspaper, stated that the ban was destroying lives, boosting crime, and crushing South Africa’s spirit of ubuntu, Abramjee said.
“The pain has echoed from the tobacco fields of Limpopo to the spaza shops of Soweto, Umlazi, and the Cape Flats. Proud factory workers, truck drivers, and store staff are being denied the ability to put bread on the table, shoes on the feet of their children, schoolbooks in their bags, and a safe roof over their heads,” the letter said.
The letter was accompanied by a graphic image showing that the R3.5 billion excise taxes lost in 100 days could have paid for two new hospitals and 5000 ventilators; 54 new schools; the salaries of 25,000 nurses, 5000 doctors, and 20,000 primary school teachers; 8045 new affordable homes; 23 million food parcels for the poor.
South Africa is reportedly the only country in the world to have banned the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products during the world-wide Covid-19 pandemic.