Cigarette ban: Johann Rupert, Dlamini-Zuma heading for court battle
A firm within Johann Rupert's investment portfolio is gearing up to fight Dlamini-Zuma and other NCC members in court, regarding the cigarette ban.
One of the richest men in South Africa could indirectly take on COGTA Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma next week, following the dramatic u-turn on cigarette sales that was announced on Wednesday. British American Tobacco (BAT), part of Johann Rupert’s investment vehicle, is ready to take the government to court.
Why Johann Rupert and Dlamini-Zuma could get tangled up in a court case
In a letter published by the company’s lawyers on Friday, they express their dismay at events that took place during a National Command Centre (NCC) briefing. Last week, President Ramaphosa confirmed that cigarettes would be allowed to return to the shelves during Level 4 of lockdown. But just a few days later, Dlamini-Zuma announced a surprise reversal of this policy.
That sparked a wave of public and political condemnation, which hasn’t yet been addressed by Ramaphosa. The NCC’s word became law earlier on Friday, and despite the launch of a petition and other legal challenges, this lawsuit from BAT blows everything else out of the water.
The purpose of the court papers
The court papers filed by the tobacco behemoth name Dlamini-Zuma, Police Minister Bheki Cele and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nwakula as the respondents. They are the senior figures of the Command Centre, and both have already created their own share of controversy during the lockdown period.
However, according to what has been filed, the crux of the matter is the confusion caused by the government’s mixed messages: After Ramaphosa alerted the nation to a change in the cigarette laws, BAT made a huge order for 10 000 product deliveries. Dlamini-Zuma’s update then put the brakes on sales, costing the firm millions of rand.
Dlamini-Zuma, NCC facing deadline on cigarettes decision
Their lawyers argue that the reversal was “unfair and irrational”, and handed the government an ultimatum: They want the NCC to allow cigarettes and tobacco to be sold again before 10:00 on Monday 4 May – or BAT’s legal team will launch an application to appeal the contentious amendment.
We could be days away from a court showdown involving Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Johann Rupert – which is the sort of blockbuster entertainment we could all do with during lockdown:
Rupert is taking Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to court #DrDlaminiZumaFridays pic.twitter.com/E8MpRp2arE— Lerato Pillay (@uLerato_pillay) May 1, 2020