Government denies delaying BATSA tobacco ban case

South Africa instituted its ban on the sale of cigarettes in late March, 2020.
South Africa instituted its ban on the sale of cigarettes in late March, 2020.
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  • The second tobacco ban challenge brought by British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) was supposed to be heard in June but has now been postponed to early August.
  • BATSA's lawyers are protesting the postponement and have accused government of delaying tactics.
  • Now government says it's BATSA's new answering affidavit that caused the delay.

 


Government says the postponement of the tobacco sales ban challenge, brought by British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) to August did not happen because it unilaterally wanted to delay the matter.

BATSA's case, which is separate from the legal challenge of tobacco ban that the Pretoria High Court dismissed on Friday was due to be heard by the Western Cape High Court on 24 June. However, it has now been postponed to 5 August. The country's largest tobacco manufacturer brought filed its case in early June and is protesting against the postponement to August and argues that agreed the matter needs to be resolved by the courts as soon as possible.

BATSA alleged that government delayed the matter as it only filed its replying affidavits on 24 June 2020 and raised a substantial new matter in the process. But government says it's BATSA that raised a substantial new matter that has caused the delay to August.

In a statement issued by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) on Friday evening, it said government it filed its answering papers on 16 June, not this week.

It added that the cause of the delay is that all parties agreed to request that the matter be heard by a full bench of three judges. It said the Judge President of the Western Cape High Court actually directed that the matter will be heard before three Judges a day after government filed its affidavit, on the 17th of June.

But BATSA’s attorneys requested that if three or two Judges were not available in late June, the matter be heard by a single Judge; a request that the Judge President granted, paving way for the matter to be heard on 30 June. But BATSA filed new papers on the 24th which contained a "substantial new matter", including affidavits from two new experts. 

"BATSA did not forewarn the government that its new papers would contain new matter, e.g. an affidavit by a fresh medical expert relying on, amongst other things, medical literature published before BATSA instituted its challenge in early June," read the GCIS statement.

Needing to consider the new matter and its ramifications, government said it could no longer support bringing the matter before the Judge on 30 June.  But it was the Judge President who said it could only be heard after 4 August.

"Government does not have control over the scheduling of court hearings, and it did not attempt to exercise any such control in this case," read the statement.

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