The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has won a legal battle in the Guateng High Court that will allow it to proceed with its plan to install closed-circuit television cameras at tobacco warehouses. The move comes as a measure to address the issue of illicit tobacco trade, which is causing the South African government to lose an estimated ZAR8 billion ($431.06 million) in revenue each year due to tax evasion.
Why are warehouses being prevented from installing cameras?
The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), which represents 80 percent of licensed cigarette manufacturers in Southern Africa, had taken SARS to court in an attempt to halt the installation of the cameras. Eleven tobacco companies filed separate applications arguing that the new rule was unconstitutional and violated their rights to privacy, dignity, and property.
However, on December 29, acting judge Jacques Minnaar dismissed their case. He stated that the companies had applied for warehouse licenses knowing that unrestricted access for SARS officials to install cameras was a condition. The court also highlighted that the companies were aware of the installation of CCTV cameras at British American Tobacco and Gold Leaf in February 2023.