South Africa : Anti-smoking body slams Sars for accepting gifts from tobacco lobby group

Sars accepted three hammer mills – which it uses to destroy illegal cigarettes – from the Tobacco Institute of South Africa.

The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) has slammed the South African Revenue Service (Sars) for accepting donations from the Tobacco Institute of South Africa (Tisa).

According to media reports, Tisa donated three hammer mills that Sars uses to destroy illegal cigarettes.

The now-defunct Tisa offered the mills to Sars at no cost because it was winding down operations in the country.

Tisa reportedly felt that instead of destroying the properties, Sars could use them to “ensure environmentally friendly destruction of illegal cigarettes, reduce costs, and help free up space”.

The remnants of the destroyed illegal cigarettes during a media event at Lehae La Sars in Brooklyn, Tshwane, 22 June 2021. The event was held to showcase the work by Customs in intercepting and destroying illegal/illicit cigarettes, which caused the country to lose lots of tax revenue. They also showcased some of their other work. Picture: Neil McCartney

It’s like partnering with the fox to protect the henhouse

NCAS deputy director Sharon Nyatsanza said Sars should not be accepting donations or gifts from tobacco lobby groups.

“This is like partnering with the fox to protect the henhouse,” said Nyatsanza.

“Instead of taking gifts from tobacco manufacturers, Sars should be investigating all tobacco companies on allegations of tax evasion and complicity in illicit trade,” she said.

NCAS insists there are no holy cows when it comes to tobacco companies, and the country’s tax collectors must start seeing them as part of the problem when it comes to illicit trade and not the solution.

“This is a clear violation of the government’s obligations under the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which instructs the government not to take gifts or accept assistance from the tobacco industry,” said Nyatsanza.

Just two weeks ago, British American Tobacco South Africa was accused of bribery and corruption in a massive scandal that involved an alleged ploy to get Africa’s young population to get hooked on cigarettes.

It also allegedly used its partnership with government as a member of the Illicit Trade Task Force team to break the law and spy on competitors.

“This just shows that interacting with tobacco companies, especially when done behind closed doors, is a breeding ground for manipulation and should be avoided,” concluded Nyatsanza.

Source: The Citizen