Cigarette manufacturers British American Tobacco (BAT) South Africa on Wednesday dropped its threats to sue the South African government for banning cigarette sales during the coronavirus lockdown.The firm, which earlier this week announced plans to sue the government, said the change of heart was in response to “a welcome” response from the government, announcing that it would pursue talks with the authorities instead of taking the legal route.
“We are convinced that by working together we can find a better solution that works for all South Africans and removes the threat of criminal sanction from 11 million tobacco consumers in the country,” BAT said in a statement.
One of its suggested solutions was a proposal to government that established cigarette retailers be allowed to sell tobacco products where social distancing could be ensured, BAT said.
Otherwise, it added, there was more risk to smokers and their families if they continued to purchase cigarettes from illegal traders, who are said to be overcharging for the product during the lockdown.
The debate over the ban reared its ugly head this week when BAT and other interested parties targeted Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the face of the cigarette sales ban, abusing her in public for her stance.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has however defended the minister, saying the ban was a collective decision by the government.