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Truck drive nabbed for possession of illicit cigarettes worth R1.5m granted bail

A 45-year-old truck driver who was arrested for possession of illicit cigarettes worth R1.5 million has been granted bail of R4,000.

Tawanda Maxwell Tavuya made a brief appearance the Lehurutshe Magistrate’s Court on Thursday following his arrest.

According to the South African Police Sevice (Saps), Tawanda Maxwell Tavuya was arrested at the Skilpadshek port of entry between South Africa and Botswana on Monday evening.

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The suspect was driving a truck that entering the country from Zimbabwe via Botswana when it was searched by the police.

During the search, illicit cigarettes with an estimated street value of R1.5 million were found in a concealed compartment.

In a statement, North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said the suspect is scheduled to return to court on 27 October.

Tobacco ban

According a study by the Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) at the University of Cape Town, the national tobacco ban during the hard Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 did not cease the sale of cigarettes, rather it caused major disruption to the market.

The study, published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research peer-reviewed journal, assessed how the ban affected the cigarette market from a sample of smokers by comparing the price, consumption and competitive landscapes before March, during the hard lockdown and after the sales ban.

READ MORE: R7 for a pack cigarettes? Authorities losing fight against illegal cigarettes

It found that despite the high levels of illicit trade in the local tobacco market, the government’s decision to ban the sale of tobacco products in March 2020, as part of its Covid-19 response, had unintended consequences.

The ban lasted five months between 27 March 2020 and 17 August 2020.

Despite the national sales ban, the study found that most smokers in South Africa did not only continue smoking, but prices increased by over 240%.

The illegal cigarette sales also further entrenched an already large illicit market in the country.

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