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Tobacco companies sue South African government over smoking ban | Coronavirus pandemic News



Johannesburg, South Africa – Tobacco companies are determined to move forward with litigation against the South African government for its banning of tobacco products during the nearly five-month coronavirus lockdown.

The tobacco ban – the only one of its kind worldwide – was imposed under the 2002 Disaster Management Act, the government justifying it on health grounds based on advice from its medical experts as well as from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

South Africa’s ban on the sale of tobacco products and alcohol was lifted on Monday, as part of the easing of measures imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), an organisation representing 80 percent of cigarette manufacturers in South Africa, brought forward a court application on May 4 against the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. 

FITA said there is no rational connection between the cigarette ban and the aim of the state of disaster declaration which is to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But organisations such as the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa have supported the ban.

Litigation going forward

The Pretoria High Court dismissed FITA’s challenge on June 26, ruling that Dlamini-Zuma acted reasonably with a view to save lives when she banned tobacco products. On Friday, the Supreme Court granted FITA the right to appeal.

FITA’s president, Sinhlenhle Mnguni, said the association would proceed with its lawsuit. FITA initially wanted to compel the government to reintroduce the sale of tobacco products but, since the ban was removed on Monday, it now seeks an order prohibiting the government from banning tobacco sales again, should South Africa move to a stricter lockdown in the future.

According to FITA, Dlamini-Zuma was not empowered to ban tobacco products under the Disaster Management Act, which they said only empowers the minister to make regulations “rationally connected” to preventing or controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Disaster Management Act was previously used to halt xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa in June 2008. It was also invoked during the 2010-2011 floods in different parts of the country.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mnguni said: “Medical evidence does not support the minister’s decision to ban tobacco products,” and the move was made in a non-consultative and “undemocratic” way.

By banning tobacco, Mnguni argued, the government went against the main objective of lockdown, which was to prevent people from moving around, pushing them to go out and seek cigarettes on the black market, a trade that increased sharply over recent months.

BATSA – a unit of British American Tobacco – described the ban as “bizarre and irregular”. According to BATSA, South Africa lost $36m in taxes during every day of the tobacco ban. 

In April, BATSA initiated a legal challenge against the tobacco ban but the case was withdrawn in May. BATSA said in a statement it would pursue further discussions with the government.


According to Safs Abdool Karim, senior researcher at the Wits University Centre for Health Economics, those opposing the ban may have the constitution on their side.

Although it has been suggested smokers are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, no evidence has been brought to the court proving that smoking during the lockdown specifically increases people’s susceptibility to COVID-19, Abdool Karim said.

“We do not know conclusively what the link between COVID and smoking is,” said Abdool Karim.

Legal experts said the tobacco ban could be unconstitutional and FITA’s court challenge has a good chance of success.

Pierre de Vos, professor of constitutional law at the University of Cape Town, told Al Jazeera: “The legal problem for the government is that to be legally valid, the ban must be shown to be rational, and that means there must be at least some evidence that the ban would reduce the spread of COVID-19, or reduce the fatalities of those succumbing to the disease.”

Noting there is ample evidence that smoking is bad for people’s health and there is also some proof that smokers are more likely to succumb to coronavirus than non-smokers, he said: “But I am not sure there is evidence that a short-term ban on the sale of cigarettes is in any way linked to achieving one or more of the [anti-coronavirus] goals set out above.

“For this reason, I would not be surprised if the government loses one or both of the cases currently before the courts,” he said.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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