Press release FITA 08 August 2019
Press release – FITA – for immediate release
We have in our previous press releases alluded to evidence of too many instances in the past which point to various practices by certain role-players in the tobacco industry that speak to unfair treatment of some by the state, preferential treatment in other cases and various anti-competitive practices. Of late it had seemed that government and its various bodies were listening to our concerns and were taking steps to bring these practices to an end.
It therefore came as a surprise to us, particularly at a time where the issue of state capture has featured so prominently in the media, that parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health, allegedly in its pursuit to inter alia better understand the tobacco industry (as reported in a parliamentary press release of 25 July 2019), elected to have a unilateral meeting with cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco South Africa (“BATSA”), thereby excluding the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association (“FITA”) and other industry players.
Surely common sense would dictate that industry as a whole be engaged when it comes to gaining a better understanding of the industry. FITA as a body alone comprises of 8 (eight) local tobacco manufacturers who have been actively trading in the economy for a number of years. This accounts for about 90% of cigarette manufacturers based in the Republic of South Africa. As a collective these manufacturers contribute billions towards the economy directly by way of profit-generation, employment and job creation, and indirectly by way of corporate and personal income tax, customs and excise duties, value-added tax, municipal taxes and other levies and taxes associated with operating businesses in South Africa.
The question therefore needs to be asked as to why BATSA alone were approached by parliament for an exercise which has the potential to have implications on the commercial interests of all its competitors, particularly given the history of the company concerned worldwide and the tactics they have been known to employ to root out their competitors. Allegations of these practices in South Africa have recently resurfaced in the media and we
have again called on government and law enforcement agencies to ensure that they are dealt with appropriately to establish their veracity.
It appears that BATSA are again trying to get cosy with government officials and bodies in order to:
- Circumvent the strictures of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (“FCTC”) and its International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project. This they achieve by using so-called “co-operation” with authorities as a “Trojan Horse” to gain influence and access to areas of tobacco control which, were the provisions of the FCTC enforced, would be outside their reach. An example is their opposition to the proposed “Plain Packaging” on the spurious grounds that it will increase counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes.
- To position and present themselves as part of the “solution” to end all illicit tobacco trade and thereby increase their ability to influence policy in this area and to attempt to keep intelligence and law enforcement actions on the illicit tobacco trade under their control and focused anywhere else except on themselves.
We therefore call upon parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health to ensure that it conducts its interactions with the tobacco industry strictly according to the FCTC and their International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project.
We further call upon the aforementioned committee and its honourable chairperson to take the tobacco industry as a whole, and the public at large, into its confidence and to make publicly available the minutes of the committee’s meeting with BATSA as well as to make available for inspection all information, records, internal minutes of meetings, emails and communications, and documents which led to and followed the meeting with BATSA. We have also instructed our attorneys to monitor this situation to ensure that the rights and interests of our members are protected.
Issued by the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association: 8 August 2019
For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 072 720 7919; e: Monique@fita.co.za