CAPE TOWN – The continued cigarette sales ban until level 1 would put informal traders on the streets, the South African Informal Traders Alliance (Saita) said.
In a statement issued on Sunday urged the government to lift the ban on cigarette sales under the coronavirus (Covid-19) regulations. This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of lifting the alcohol trade ban.
Saita, the national voice of informal traders including spaza shops in South Africa, said government has forgotten “what it’s like in townships”.
Cigarette sales made up a sizable portion of the average informal traders’ sales, and in many cases, 100 percent of sales. Further banning cigarettes would put millions of South Africans at risk and rob them of their dignity, Saita said.
Informal traders could only access the R350 per month Covid-19 government relief and did not have access to the other assistance provided to formalised small and medium enterprises (SMEs) or bigger businesses.
“Government is turning legitimate informal traders into beggars, smokers into criminals, and illicit tobacco dealers into billionaires,” Saita president Rosheda Muller said.
“Where millions of traders were previously able to operate with dignity and confidence, knowing they were contributing positively to the economy, and importantly, their families, their ability to trade has been ripped from them by a government that is unwilling to listen or to consult. This will have a profoundly negative impact on their livelihoods, their dignity, and their trust in government,” she warned.
Muller said the government was holding consultations with every sector, but Saita.
“You would have to be blind and deaf to not hear the public’s anger bubbling up over this issue. South Africans don’t understand what is behind the ban…she said.
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