‘Il­licit cig­a­rettes’ threat­ens jobs

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS -

AU­THOR­I­TIES have come un­der pres­sure to clamp down on the al­legedly tax-dodg­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers of il­licit cig­a­rettes.

New re­search has claimed that il­le­gal cig­a­rettes are now dom­i­nat­ing the mar­ket share, de­pos­ing Peter Stuyvesant as a pre­ferred brand.

The re­port by re­search group Ip­sos, con­ducted on be­half of the To­bacco In­sti­tute of South­ern Africa (Tisa), said RG – an “il­licit brand” – was now the mostly-bought cig­a­rette in South Africa.

The re­port said RG and oth­ers have over­taken tra­di­tional brands by evad­ing ex­cise tax and thereby manag­ing to keep their prices as low as R10 per pack.

Fran­cois van der Merwe, a to­bacco farmer and Tisa’s chair­per­son, de­cried what he de­scribed as empty prom­ises by the state to tackle man­u­fac­tur­ers of il­le­gal brands.

He said Tisa had given Sars solid in­for­ma­tion about the man­u­fac­tur­ers and their modus operandi.

“Il­le­gal cig­a­rettes are man­u­fac­tured lo­cally in fac­to­ries li­censed by Sars,” he said.

This also dis­pelled the be­lief that il­licit cig­a­rettes were coun­ter­feits man­u­fac­tured out­side of South Africa.

Just last week, the Le­sotho Rev­enue Author­ity con­fis­cated 380 000 RG loose draws at the Maseru Bridge.

The 12 000 jobs in the tra­di­tional to­bacco sec­tor are threat­ened, Van der Merwe said.

Du­misani Sibeko, a shop ste­ward at a Hei­del­berg fac­tory, said yes­ter­day that work­ers were hard-hit.

“There were re­trench­ments two months ago. Due to the de­cline of busi­ness, 50 work­ers lost their jobs. We used to pro­duce 20 mil­lion sticks per an­num, but we’re now sit­ting at 17 mil­lion sticks,” he said.

How­ever, Gold Leaf To­bacco, man­u­fac­turer of RG, said Sars had never had to act against their brand be­cause it was above board.

“Our RG brand is reg­is­tered with Sars and there is noth­ing il­licit about it,” said at­tor­ney Raees Saint.

“We have been con­stant con­trib­u­tors to the fis­cus. We have, in the last 12 years, paid an amount of nearly R8.2bn in ex­cise du­ties alone.”

– Bongani Nkosi

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