20 000+ CITIZENS SUPPORT #TakeBackTheTax

MEDIA STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday
29 October 2018

The #TakeBackTheTax campaign has surpassed a significant milestone and is thrilled to announce that over 20 000 citizens have added their names to this important campaign.

#TakeBackTheTax was launched a few months ago and calls on Government, SARS and law enforcement agencies to urgently act and “take immediate steps” to combat the trade of illegal cigarettes.

By acting against illicit cigarette traders, the South African economy could take back at least R7 billion in potential tax revenue every year.

This money could be used to put back into communities, and areas of the SA economy that need it most.

The illicit cigarette trade is a huge problem in South Africa, yet cigarettes that cost as little as R5 remain widely available and are found in almost all informal shops in the country. This is illegal.

It is now clear that South Africans agree that this practice must stop and that Government must #TakeBackTheTax as a matter of urgency.

#TakeBackTheTax spokesperson, Yusuf Abramjee, said it’s evident that this campaign has massive support: “I’ve personally visited several shopping centers across the country and spoken to people who have pledged their full support. They are 100% behind us!”

“South Africans are tired of unethical business practices and are now demanding that the relevant authorities #TakeBackTheTax” added Abramjee.

Abramjee has also vowed that this is just the beginning, “We are committed to this campaign and are calling on all South Africans to keep signing their names to this petition so that we can double and triple this number”.

“We will continue to engage with Government and SARS at the highest levels, in an attempt to get them to act. These illicit cigarette traders and manufacturers are acting with impunity and they are literally robbing our country daily”.

Abramjee added that the R7 billion in lost money is only the tip of the iceberg.

“This is money that could be helping the poorest of the poor, money that could be invested in policing, the healthcare system, education, social grants and so much more. Why are we allowing criminal enterprises to rob our people?”

All those law abiding citizens who wish to add their names to the #TakeBackTheTax campaign can visit takebackthetax.org. They can also follow
@takebackthetax on Twitter.

By 9.30am this morning, a total of 21690 people signed the submission.

Abramjee said #TakeBackTheTax cautiously welcomes the announcement by acting SARS commissioner, Mark Kingon, that a special unit was being established to clampdown on the illicit trade.

We believe some 58 cases are currently under investigation.

“We welcome the start of some raids but so far they have not even scratched the surface. It is not small shops that need to be the focus of SARS’ efforts but big wholesalers and the illegal manufacturers themselves. We need sustained operations and we need to stop the illegal tobacco trade.

“We appeal to the public to blow the whistle on the illegal trade. Please contact SARS and pass on information anonymously.”

Abramjee said he remained hopeful that SARS was going to act.

“We want to see sustained operations targeting the big fish, not just small resellers”

At the SARS Inquiry, it became evident that suspended commissioner Tom Moyane, ordered a slow down of operations into the illicit trade.

“The tax holiday for illegal tobacco must end. We need the laws to be implemented. Citizens are calling for this. Instead of increasing taxes, #TakeBackTheTax, the billions that are being evaded,” Abramjee added.

ENDS

Yusuf Abramjee
Spokesperson
#TakeBackTheTax
Cell 082 4414 203
(Please call/text via What’s App)
Twitter: @abramjee
@takebackthetax

Photos:

Caption:

Over 20 000 citizens have signed a #TaxBackTheTax submission calling for urgent action to stop the sale of illegal cigarettes.

It’s time schools, both public and private, stopped targeting Muslim students. Our Constitution is clear!

Here is the full legal opinion of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on whether Muslim students are allowed to grow beards at schools.

I raised the matter with Deputy Minister, Enver a Surtee, and I thank him for the assistance. The matter was brought to my attention by a parent.

It’s time schools, both public and private, stopped targeting Muslim students. Our Constitution is clear!

Here is the full opinion as received from the department:

Your emails dated 18 and 30 September 2018 below refers.

Kindly be informed that in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, (section 15 of the Bill of Rights) affords everyone with the right to freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion. To further realise the constitutional mandate, section 7 of the South African Schools Act, 1996 ( Act No. 84 of 1996 (the SASA) provides for freedom of conscience and religion at public schools. It provides the following-
“Subject to the Constitution and any applicable provincial law, religious observances may be conducted at a public school under rules issued by the governing body if such observances are conducted on an equitable basis and attendance at them by learners and members of staff is free and voluntary.”
The above provision should be read in the context of the entire education jurisprudence and not in isolation. This provision also applies to independent schools. One of the primary requirements for registration of an independent school as contemplated in section 46 amongst others is that-
(3) A Head of Department must register an independent school if he or she is satisfied that—
(a) the standards to be maintained by such school will not be inferior to the standards in comparable public schools;
(b)…..
(c)……

Section 7 has laid a standard pertaining to religious observance in schools and it is enforceable to both public and independent schools. To further provide clarity on this matter, one must not lose sight of the fact that the constitution applies both horizontal as against private institution and vertically against state organs. Independent schools are not exempted from complying with Chapter 2 of the Constitution and the department has a responsibility to respect, protect and promote it.

Freedom of religion was further given content and meaning in the Pillay judgement by both the High Court and the Constitutional Court.
In its judgment, the High Court1 (Kondile J with Tshabalala JP concurring) held that the conduct of the School was discriminatory against Sunali and was unfair in terms of the Equality Act. It held that our society prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination and aims to eliminate entrenched inequalities. It held further that the Equality Court had failed to consider properly the impact of the Constitution and the Equality Act on the Code and that both religion and culture are equally protected under the Equality Act and the Constitution. Because the nose stud had religious and/or cultural significance to Sunali, the failure to treat her differently from her peers amounted to withholding from her “the benefit, opportunity and advantage of enjoying fully [her] culture and/or of practising [her] religion” and therefore constituted indirect discrimination. The Court held further that the desire to maintain discipline in the School was not an acceptable reason for the prohibition as there was no evidence that wearing the nose stud had a disruptive effect on the smooth-running of the School.

Although the Constitutional court set aside the decision of the high Court, it also declared that the decision of the Governing Body of Durban Girls’ High School to refuse Sunali Pillay an exemption from its Code of Conduct to allow her to wear a nose stud, discriminated unfairly against her.

The High Court in Organisasie vir Godsdienste – Ondering en Demokrasie v Laerskool Randhart and others (organization for religions, education and democracy), held that all school governing bodies, as chief custodians of the schools’ governance, should always adopt religious policies that are consistent with the Constitution and with any other applicable law. Learners are entitled to practice and observe their religious beliefs in accordance with the policy determined by the school governing body, but, by law, such policy must accord the same status and recognition to all religions and belief systems

In compliance to the Constitution and Case law the school cannot prohibit a learner from practicing and observing a religion of their choice. Ashton College cannot determine a code of conduct in conflict with the above authority.

The advice to both Ashton College and Mr *** is to heed the words of O’REGAN J in the Pillay matter which read as follows-
“It needs to be emphasised however, that the strength of our schools will be enhanced only if parents, learners and teachers accept that we all own our public schools and that we should all take responsibility for their continued growth and success. Where possible processes should be available in schools for the resolution of disputes, and all engaged in such conflict should do so with civility and courtesy.”

I hope this would assist…

Kind Regards

Adv C Ledwaba

NUGENT INQUIRY CONFIRMS ILLEGAL CIGARETTE MAKERS OPERATE WITH IMPUNITY

MEDIA RELEASE: NUGENT INQUIRY CONFIRMS ILLEGAL CIGARETTE MAKERS OPERATE WITH IMPUNITY

For Immediate Release

Wednesday
17 October 2018

#TakeBackTheTax welcomes the publication of the Nugent Inquiry report which confirms what it has been telling the public all along – that there is rampant tax evasion in the tobacco industry – as a direct result of Tom Moyane’s devastation of SARS.

In his report, Judge Nugent found: “Measures to counter criminality have been compromised and those who trade illicitly in commodities like tobacco operate with little constraint.”

Testimony after testimony detailed how the suspended SARS commissioner and his acolytes protected illegal cigarette makers in South Africa.

As early as June, former Chief Officer, Gene Ravele, testified that the decline in tax revenue from tobacco was “planned” and that investigators were instructed to stop inspecting cigarette factories.

Last month it was revealed that in 2016, Moyane failed to investigate intelligence that one of his top officials was colluding with a known tobacco smuggler and instead sanctioned the hounding out of SARS of Yousef Denath, the man who had brought the matter to his attention, and Kumaren Moodley, once described as “the last Jedi” in the fight against illicit trade.

The cost of this corruption is clear.

The Nugent Report states “those who trade in illicit tobacco operate with little constraint” and there is a “material and ongoing loss of revenue from tobacco related taxes for want of investigation and vastly diminished regulation of the illicit economy”.

This also follows the release of the IPSOS report in July which exposed that cheap, illegal cigarettes sell for between R5 – R10 in three out of every four informal shops in the country.

The brands are being openly sold and authorities know who the culprits are.

#TakeBackTheTax is demanding an immediate clampdown.

The cost to the fiscus is at least R7 billion a year and possibly much more.

According to #TakeBackTheTax spokesperson, Yusuf Abramjee, “we feel vindicated by the findings of the Nugent report and believe there is no better time for new SARS Commissioner, Mark Kingon, to commit to prioritising this matter and dealing with it immediately.

“Kingon has vowed to take action and now that the SARS Inquiry has confirmed that illicit traders continue to operate with impunity, he must end it now.”

Abramjee also called on all South Africans to sign the #TakeBackTheTax petition which calls on Government to act with urgency and clamp down on the trade of illegal cigarettes.

“Over 17 000 people have now signed up, and their voices cannot and should not be ignored. We are now demanding action.

“South Africa needs its money back,” said Abramjee.

Citizens have been urged to continue to support the #TakeBackTheTax campaign by signing their names at takebackthetax.org

ENDS
Enquiries:

Yusuf Abramjee
Spokesperson
#TakeBackTheTax
Cell: 0824414203
Twitter
@abramjee
@takebackthetax

MY CHALLENGE TO THE NATIONAL COUNCIL AGAINST SMOKING

On 8 October, the Executive Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), Savera Kalideen wrote in the Daily Maverick a column entitled “Increasing Tobacco taxes saves lives and raises revenue.”

Kalideen argues that by increasing tobacco taxes, government will grow its revenue.

Allow me take this opportunity to respond.

Kalideen correctly states that some tobacco companies pay the taxes they owe but most do not and that as a result, tobacco tax revenues are declining.

She argues that the solution to this is to increase tax rates on the few tobacco companies that actually pay up. Really?

Surely a better idea would be for government to rigorously enforce its tax laws against companies which are evading tax and once it does that, then it might make sense to increase the rates.

Before that, a tax increase would be futile, even counterproductive.

The fundamental problem with the NCAS proposal to increase tax rates is that for each of the last three years (including this year), the government has not lifted a finger to tackle illicit trade and related tax evasion in the tobacco industry and criminals have enjoyed an effective tax holiday.

Here are two facts that are undisputable (except by illegal cigarette sellers and their apologists)…

Illegal cigarettes in South Africa are widely available and visible in almost every informal shop in the country, even more so than most legal brands.

They are sold for as little as R5 per pack. R5, Let that sink in. What possible good could a tax rate increase do when 20 cigarettes can be easily bought tax free for R5?

In each of the last three years, the NCAS lobbied government to increase tobacco taxes, on the pretext that they would increase revenue and reduce smoking.

Government did so – above the rate of inflation – and government lost money.

According to Treasury’s testimony before the SARS Inquiry, tobacco excise receipts are down 20% in the past 12 months alone. Government tobacco tax revenue falls every year despite rate increases. And not because people are smoking less but because people are smoking tax free.

Why is this? It’s become painfully clear from the SARS Inquiry that our tax collection agency is thoroughly broken and was likely deliberately broken between 2014 and 2017, partially to protect tobacco smugglers.

In 2016, the former SARS administration established a Tobacco Task Team. That team did not investigate one single tobacco company.

Instead, it focused on suspending a senior anti-illicit tobacco investigator in the organisation and an anti-corruption agent who had received intelligence about a SARS official colluding with a tobacco smuggler. This is a national disgrace!

Clearly, a priority for the country is that government should enforce its tax laws. And specifically, it should re-learn how to enforce its tobacco tax laws. Until it does, there is no sense whatsoever in increasing tax rates.

Its time to stop doing what’s not working and fix the basics.

It certainly appears as if Acting SARS Commissioner, Mark Kingon, wants to crack down on illegal cigarettes.

But so far, nothing has happened. It may be that Tom Moyane’s acolytes retain significant power in SARS. It may be that the institution is so broken it will take more time to fix but until it is working again, tax increases will achieve nothing except more revenue declines – as has been the case in the past few years.

I am the spokesperson for the #TakeBackTheTax campaign, a TISA funded campaign which demands that government take action now against tax evasion in the tobacco industry.

I therefore call on SARS to investigate everyone, including the international players, but crucially, also those companies whose brands are selling on the market for a fraction of the legal minimum tax owed to SARS.

It is more than a little surreal that TISA, a tobacco industry association, must run a petition to force government to enforce its own tobacco tax laws and collect what is owed. But that’s our current reality.

I have a proposition for the NCAS…
I challenge the National Council Against Smoking to throw its support behind the #TakeBackTheTax campaign.

I challenge the NCAS to do the right thing, show leadership and resolve and join the 15,000 citizens that have already petitioned SARS to collect what South Africa is owed from the tobacco industry.

Once they do that, and the illicit cigarette trade in South Africa is reduced to the global average of 10%, I will support NCAS’ call to increase tobacco excise.

*Yusuf Abramjee
Spokesperson #TakeBackTheTax
Anti-Crime activist
@Abramjee

Using technology to combat crime in South Africa

With the multitude of emergency numbers available in South Africa getting help is not as clear cut as it should be.

Adding to the frustration is the time wasted due to the lack of information available to the emergency operator.

They don’t know who you are, or where you are.

Namola, a free emergency safety app, supported by Dialdirect Insurance, takes the hassle out of getting help in an emergency.

The moment a Namola user pushes the button to request assistance, the app sends through the user’s GPS location and emergency profile so that the user’s dedicated Namola operator knows immediately where the user is and who they are. With a quick confirmation of the nature of the emergency, the Namola operator will then coordinate the right help for the emergency and send the user the help they need.

Thanks to innovative thinking, Namola uses technology to ensure that you are able to get help, no matter the scenario. For example, if a user can’t speak, Namola’s in-app chat feature allows an alternative method of communication with the Namola operator and the first responders. Even if the user is on the move, the GPS location will constantly be updated, giving South Africans peace of mind that no matter what the situation, they can let someone know that they need help.

Namola knows that every emergency is different. In addition to having over 1400 geofenced control rooms on their database, Namola has added counselling services, social workers and community safety initiatives to the ways South Africans can get help.

Recently, the company launched their latest innovation, Namola Watch, which allows established Neighbourhood Watch teams to respond to reported incidents in their communities faster than before.

“Namola has changed the way that we are able to respond to emergencies in our community,” says Graham Holmquist of Riga Rescue, a Namola Watch Responder.

”Knowing the type as well as the exact coordinates of the emergency cuts down time and allows us to give help faster than before. Whenever we get to the scene of an emergency that has not been reported via Namola, we ensure as many people on scene download the Namola App there and then.”

Namola encourages South Africans not only to get help for themselves with Namola, but to use it as a trusted resource to get others in your community help.

“It’s great to see that so many people are using Namola to report emergencies on behalf of others,” says Maanda Tshifularo, Head of Namola’s sponsor, Dialdirect Insurance. ”We love that Namola is fast becoming the tool of choice to combat crime and make communities in South Africa a safer place to live.”

Namola is available as a free download at namola.co/sfa

*Yusuf Abramjee is the Chief Ambassador for the Namola/DialDirect safety app and an anti-crime activist.

THOUSANDS MORE ADD THEIR NAME TO THE #TakeBackTheTax CAMPAIGN

MEDIA UPDATE:

Sunday 7 October 2018

THOUSANDS MORE ADD THEIR NAME TO THE #TakeBackTheTax CAMPAIGN

Almost 14 000 citizens have now added their names to a campaign calling on Government to act immediately and stop the illegal cigarette trade.

#TakeBackTheTax was launched by the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA) a few weeks ago.

The campaign calls on authorities to act as a matter of urgency and stop the illegal cigarette trade, as it is costing the country millions of rands.

“Our economy is losing billions of rands because of the illegal cigarette trade. This money could be used to get much needed resources and basic services to citizens,” said spokesman for #TakeBackTheTax, Yusuf Abramjee.

He said the last two weeks has seen a significant increase in the number of names that have been added.
At least 4000 citizens made their submission in the past 14 days.

The submission reads as follows:

“I Implore the South African Revenue Service, the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa and law enforcement agencies to act with urgency and take decisive steps in combating the trade of illegal cigarettes. By doing so we will stop the South African economy from losing R7 billion in potential tax revenue every year. I ask that the aforementioned parties conduct thorough investigations into claims of tax evasion by all cigarette manufacturers, to implement and enforce new laws to mitigate the negative impact that illegal cigarettes have on low-income communities.”

Abramjee, who is also an anti-crime activist, said that “it is clear from revelations before the SARS Inquiry that the dramatic growth in illicit trade in the tobacco sector is the result of deliberate and corrupt decisions by the former SARS administration. The new administration which has been in place for more than 7 months, has promised a lot but nothing has been done. Illegal cigarette companies have had a tax enforcement holiday for 4 years now. This national disgrace must end”

“It’s daylight robbery to see cigarettes openly being sold for between R5 and R10. Tax is being evaded. This nonsense must stop,” he said.

Abramjee said this is “tax evasion in its crudest form and the distributors responsible are using ‘multiple invoicing’ techniques as a way to mislead and trick SARS and avoid paying tax and excise duties.”

He appealed to the public to continue to add their names to the submission by visiting www.takebackthetax.org

Follow the campaign on Twitter: @takebackthetax

Abramjee said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see more and more South Africans standing up and taking a stand against this specific type of lawlessness. We urge everyone to do the right thing and join our movement.

“Let’s all become active citizens and let’s tell authorities loud and clear: #TakeBackTheTax

End

Enquiries:
Yusuf Abramjee
Spokesperson
Cell 082 4414 203
Twitter: @abramjee

*INTERVIEWS: Please what’s app