• April 18, 2024

Court Approves Warehouse Monitoring

 Court Approves Warehouse Monitoring
Image: Alexey Novikov

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) will move forward with installing closed-circuit television cameras at tobacco warehouses, after defeating a legal challenge in the Guateng High Court, reports Daily Maverick.

The surveillance plan was drafted to help plug fiscal gaps due to illicit tobacco trade. The South African government misses out on an estimated ZAR8 billion ($431.06 million) in revenue annually due to tobacco tax evasion.

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), representing 80 percent of licensed cigarette manufacturers in Southern Africa took SARS to court in an attempt to stop the installation of the cameras. In two separate applications, 11 tobacco companies sought to prevent SARS from implementing the rule promulgated under the Customs and Excise Act.

The tobacco companies argued that the new rule is unconstitutional and that it was an unjustified violation of the right to privacy, dignity and property.

Acting judge Jacques Minnaar on Dec. 29 rejected their case, arguing, among other things, that companies applied for warehouse licenses in the knowledge that these are conditional on SARS officials having unrestricted access to install cameras.

The companies were all aware of the installation of CCTV cameras at British American Tobacco and Gold Leaf in February 2023, the court added.