THE SA Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) has called for urgent action from authorities in the wake of eNCA’s damning report on the illicit cigarette trade.
Tuesday’s Crime Watch show, featuring an investigation by Tax Justice SA, revealed that illicit cigarettes are now being sold openly at mainstream retail outlets across South Africa.
Vendors appear to have no fear of reprisals from law enforcement and many seem not to know or care that their prices are below the minimum tax threshold of R20.01 per pack.
SATTA spokesperson Zacharia Motsumi said: “This disturbing report is graphic proof that illicit cigarette manufacturers have taken over the market.
“They were empowered by the lockdown sales ban and their networks are now firmly entrenched in the South African cigarette market.
“These criminals are a direct threat to the livelihoods of our members in the legal industry and they are draining billions of rand from the fiscus at a time when that money is desperately needed.
“We recognise that the law enforcement agencies are stretched, and that SARS’ capacity has also been weakened, but this has to become a national priority.”
SATTA is calling for stronger enforcement of the trading laws and the introduction of a minimum price level (MPL) for cigarettes.
“The MPL would enable law enforcement agencies, and consumers, to recognise illegal cigarettes purely by how cheap they are – which is the most obvious sign that excise duties are not being paid,” said Motsumi.
“An MPL strategy would need to be supported by a deterrent criminal penalty regime that includes big fines and jail time for traders who contravene the law.
“The lives of decent, hard-working South Africans are at risk from the booming illicit cigarette trade and it is the responsibility of our lawmakers to crack down on this criminal enterprise today.”
Issued by: Zachariah Motsumi
Mobile: 083 216 8842