The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has been granted leave to appeal the Western Cape High Court's ruling that said her decision to ban the sale of tobacco for five months during the hard lockdown was unnecessary and unconstitutional, the Mail & Guardian reported on Monday.
The ban was put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and thus reduce the occupation of intensive care unit (ICU) beds by smokers. The government argued then that smoking increased the risk of getting Covid-19 in a more severe form.
Although the ban was lifted months ago, it seems that the legal tussle around it cannot be put to bed.
Represented by Dlamini-Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council, applied for leave to appeal the ruling in January even though the issue of the sales ban was no longer relevant at that stage and neither was government looking to reintroduce the sales ban.
The Council and British American Tobacco South Africa's (BATSA) respective arguments for and against the appeal were heard virtually in mid-February.
The Western Cape High Court's ruling was arguably humiliating to Dlamini-Zuma who had scored a victory over an earlier challenge of the ban brought by Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita).
Fin24 previously reported that even though the government's legal challenge was not motivated by any plans to reintroduce a cigarette ban, there were "certain constitutional issues" raised in the BATSA ruling that needed to be addressed and clarified by a higher court.
The government believed that there was a reasonable prospect that if the appeal was allowed, the Supreme Court of Appeal would clear the conflicts between certain aspects in the Fita case that was dismissed by the High Court in Pretoria and the BATSA case which was upheld by the Western Cape High Court.
Tobacco giant the BATSA, which took the COGTA to Court in May and eventually scored a victory in December, said it will publish a statement on Tuesday to respond to the latest development.