Judge Hlope Under Fire Over Tobacco case Delay

single cigarette stick with ashes stick
single cigarette stick with ashes stick. Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash

Tobacco giant British American Tobacco SA (BATSA) and nine other litigants are fuming at Western Cape judge president John Hlophe for postponing a hearing in their case against the cigarette ban.

The cigarette ban case was originally agreed to be heard on Tuesday, but Hlophe postponed it by over a month, without giving reasons.

The litigants have threatened to take the case to another court.

The Sunday Times said it had seen e-mails between Lizette Potgieter, registrar of the chambers of the Western Cape judge president, and the applicant’s lawyers, in which all parties first agreed the matter should be heard on an urgent basis on June 30, a date they then proposed to Hlophe.

However, the registrar told applicants on Thursday that Hlophe would only have the matter placed before a full bench in six weeks’ time.

BATSA has long argued that the banning of a legal product will have dire consequences – driving millions of smokers to the illicit market, robbing the government of much-needed excise tax contributions, undercutting tobacco control regulations, encouraging criminal behaviour and threatening thousands of jobs.

It added that this position has been unequivocally supported by comprehensive independent analysis and studies by, amongst others, the University of Cape Town’s REET unit.

The Treasury is currently losing R35m of vitally required revenue in excise taxes every
day that the ban on cigarette sales in South Africa continues.

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