Naive or devious NDZ’s disastrous cig ban sure to cost more than money

Robin Sharma explains in his superb 5AM Club that it takes 33 days to set a new habit. With SA’s 21-day lockdown extended well beyond that limit, it’s safe to conclude that our society has acquired many new habits.

Among them, a transition from in-person to the remote presentations. If the Biznews experience is anything to go by, the new webinar habit is sticking. Yesterday’s Rational Radio webinar was attended by 847 people, a new record for us. That surpassed the 723 set four days before in the Noontime Thursday webinar, itself a fresh peak after the 673 of a week before.

A less welcome new habit has been created by government’s lockdown ban on the sale of cigarettes, which has spawned an illicit industry worth billions. In an interview for the latest Inside Covid-19 podcast, UCT’s Prof Corné van Walbeek said while 14% of SA’s estimated 11m smokers have gone cold turkey and quit, 90% of the rest admit to buying illegal cigarettes.

Van Walbeek says the illicit trade has reversed hard won gains since new SARS Commissioner Ed Kieswetter took office. Another expensive “own goal” by the naive (or devious depending on who you believe) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. One which could cost a lot more than taxes. Because if there’s one habit criminals hate giving up, it’s a source of easy money.

* PS We’ve upped the capacity again for Thursday’s Noontime webinar – it’s free but you do need to register beforehand. Here’s the registration link

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Comment from Biznews community member Eric Wells:

Dear Alec,

As an avid reader of your daily e-mail and articles that go with it, I am very concerned that the really small businessman and -woman are excluded from the financial relief measures that are available. To whit –

  • I run a small one-man accounting business and am about to lose more than half my income because my clients cannot operate and are shutting down, hopefully not permanently. Because I am a sole trader and invoice clients for fees, I am not registered with CIPC, do not pay UIF and so I cannot access any of the schemes that are “available”.
  • My biggest client is a closed corporation, which brings volunteers to South Africa to work in various charitable institutions. All the volunteers returned home overseas just before the lockdown and so the business has closed down. The sole member is not South African and is therefore excluded from the benefits available to the tourism and travel industry.
  • Our elder daughter runs an employment agency for the hospitality industry. Because of closures in the hospitality industry and the inability to travel overseas to take up candidates’ positions, business has dropped to zero. Because the owner of this business is a UK citizen, the company is also excluded from  the benefits available to the tourism and travel industry.
  • Our younger daughter is a physiotherapist who was unable to work until the restrictions were eased at the beginning of the month. None of the benefit options are available to her.

There must be countless similar stories in our economy and it will be tragic if they all go to the wall because the schemes offered are not available to them. I have heard it said the the South African economy relies heavily on the little man but they are left in the cold when they need assistance – this cannot be right. What do you think?

Thanks and best regards.

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