Press release FITA 19 March 2018

Press release – FITA – for immediate release
We wish to voice our concerns with the content of the Afrikaans current affairs programme
Fokus and in particular the episode which was aired on Sunday 18 March 2018 at 18:00 on
SABC 2 in connection to the illicit tobacco trade in South Africa. The views shared on this
particular broadcast were completely biased, pushed the agenda of in particular British
American Tobacco South Africa (“BAT SA”) on this particular topic (which narrative has been
shown by leading academics such as Professor Corné van Walbeek, a Professor at the School
of Economics at the University of Cape Town, to be exaggerated and designed to suit the
BAT SA agenda and move attention away from the plethora of unethical and unlawful
practices they have been implicated in). The show was littered with factual inaccuracies and
untruths about the true state of affairs in respect of the illicit cigarette trade in South Africa.
FITA as an organisation is also concerned that the national broadcaster’s actions in the
broadcasting of the aforementioned show were irresponsible in that a number of our
member brands including inter alia “Rudland & George”, “Remington Gold”, “Sevilles”, and
“Pacific Blue”, featured prominently throughout the entire duration of the aforementioned
show, and the aforementioned brands together with other FITA member brands were used
as examples of illicit cigarettes. This conduct on the part of the national broadcaster can
only be described as wrongful, misleading and defamatory, and would have the sole
intention of injuring the reputation of FITA, its members, and the brands of the said
members. In this regard we are seeking legal counsel on the appropriate steps to take to
obtain the necessary relief.
The intention of misleading South Africans on the illicit cigarette trade as has been a
longstanding strategy of BAT SA. The fact that the national broadcaster is now pushing this
outdated and tired strategy is somewhat concerning given that SABC Chair Bongumusa
Makhathini was Head of Legal & External Affairs at BAT SA until as recently as the end of
January 2018.
Further, a British American Tobacco SA employee was called onto the aforementioned show
to give expert commentary on inter alia the illicit trade in South Africa and what constitutes
an illicit cigarette. One would ask the question why a representative from SARS was not
instead invited to do so as they are the body tasked with enforcing the laws governing this
particular issue.
It is somewhat worrisome that a national public broadcaster such as the SABC, which is
broadcast to millions and even potentially billions worldwide on various media platforms,
would feed its viewers the narrative of one player in a competitive industry such as the
tobacco industry, which industry has recently had all sorts of unlawful and underhanded
tactics and anti-competitive practices come to the surface, without getting the views of
other players in that particular industry or an unbiased view possibly from an academic
expert or a law enforcement agency.
The said show also seeks to portray BAT SA as a as a champion for local tobacco farmers,
which farmers have long been exploited by foreign multinationals as documented by a
number of academics and leading writers on the topic (https://qz.com/1171359/african
tobacco-farmers-are-being-lured-in-with-bogus-promises-of-prosperity/), and further debated and discussed at the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health which was
recently held in South Africa.
FITA has only just recently highlighted the difficulty in exposing the misdeeds of
multinational tobacco manufacturers where neither the media nor law enforcement
agencies seem to have any appetite to pursue & expose credible cases of inter alia
corruption, fraud, money laundering which implicate inter alia BAT SA and high ranking
state officials.
It is even more concerning given that the SABC has also now gone on an aggressive
campaign to recruit journalists formerly of media platforms such as talk radio station 702
and television news channel eNCA, wherein both stations have been known in the past to be
silent on many of the indiscretions of large corporations, and at times shielding their
capture of the state.
The national broadcaster should at all times give an unbiased opinion on matters of national
and international interest, and should be always devoid of bias, and pushing the narrative of
any particular person or entity. We cannot have a situation where the SABC is seen to be
captured by any particular party to drive agendas that benefit said party to the detriment of
others. We therefore call on the SABC to show neutrality at all times, and give unbiased
views on all matters of national and international importance.

Issued by the Fair-trade Independent Tobacco Association: 19 March 2018
For queries kindly contact Monique Vogel t: 011 044 5355; e: Monique@fita.co.za
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