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

ANTI-CRIME ACTIVIST SAYS SOUTH AFRICA HAS A “NATIONAL CRIME EMERGENCY” AND CALLS FOR PARTNERSHIPS

MEDIA STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday 11 September 2018

RESPONSE TO CRIME STATISTICS

ANTI-CRIME ACTIVIST SAYS SOUTH AFRICA HAS A “NATIONAL CRIME EMERGENCY” AND CALLS FOR PARTNERSHIPS

Head of #MakeSASafe and anti-crime activist, Yusuf Abramjee, says the latest crime statistics “are scary and cause for serious concern.”

He says: “Blood, bullets and bodies have become a way of life for many and we have a national crime emergency.”

Abramjee says the average murder rate of 57 per day shows “we have no respect for life and life has become cheap for many.”

Abramjee said a closer look at all crime categories “shows that we are living in dangerous times. Many parts of our country are under siege and criminals are running amok.”

He said police resources had to be beefed-up and “we need to support our men and women in blue at every turn.”

“Yes, the cops are finding it difficult to cope. That’s why we need to all hold hands and mobilize. We need to fight crime and mobilize communities,” said Abramjee.

“Members of the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) are also being killed in their dozens.

“The CIT robbery figures show an increase year on year of almost 60 percent. We’ve had 258 attacks over twelve months. This is shocking! It’s a real worry. The CIT industry needs to take urgent steps and use technology which is available locally to protect guards and the cash. We also need legislation with minimum standard requirement for measures to protect cash vans.

“I’m happy to see that the latest crime stats have actual breakdowns of kidnappings and attacks on farms and small holdings. These stats were previously not listed,” he said.

Abramjee added: “We have to mobilize. We have to report crime and use technology.

“The Namola/Dial Direct Safety App has over 210 000 downloads and we help hundreds of people each week to #GetHelpFast in an emergency by pressing one button. We appeal to the public to download this app,” said Abramjee who is also Chief Ambassador for the Namola/DialDirect safety app.

He said crimes against women and children “are unacceptably high.

“Robberies, at homes and businesses are, are still very high. A large supermarket chain had almost 500 robberies over a year alone. This is a huge cost to our economy.

“We need interventions at all levels and we need them now,” said Abramjee.

The activist is also a member of Crime Stoppers International (CSI) and he appealed to the public to continue blowing the whistle on crime by calling Crime Stop anonymously on 08600 10111.

He said the annual CSI conference will be taking place in The Hague in early October and “we are going to form global alliances.”

“Don’t protect criminals!”

Abramjee called on authorities to also act against the illicit trade. “This is a growing problem and we must take a stand. For example, the illegal cigarette trade is costing our economy billions of rands. This money can, for example, be used to fight crime and resource the police to Make SA safe. That’s why I am supporting the #TakeBackTheTax campaign.

“Let’s join hands and start reclaiming our streets,” Abramjee said.

Abramjee repeated his call for the crime stats to be released “more regularly so that communities can see trends and mobilize accordingly. They come out too late…”

ENQUIRIES: Yusuf Abramjee, cell 082 4414 203

Are the police really interested in partnerships?

Are the police really interested in partnerships?

We often hear public officials talk about partnerships and they stress the need for it.

Partnerships are critical to take South Africa forward and we know government alone will not succeed without the support of civil society.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is one such department that always stresses the need partnerships.

But, it’s only talk!

They are not serious at all about partnerships and often alienate communities and the business sector.

I am inundated with calls every week from individuals, NGO’s and companies who want to assist in the fight again crime. They come up with innovative ideas and suggestions.

But, most don’t even get the courtesy of an acknowledgment letter when they write to the police leadership and even politicians.

This is a sad indictment on the SAPS and on our government.

The National Development Plan (NDP) talks about active citizenry. And yet when ordinary citizens take the lead and want to become active, they are shown the finger.

I was convinced that Fikile Mbalula would take partnerships to a new level when he took over as police minister. But, very little has changed so far. Let’s give him a few more months and see if things improve.

The police treat many communities with contempt. No wonder public confidence in the SAPS is so poor.

The same can be said of many other government departments on a national, provincial and local level.

I had a company approaching me wanting to invest millions of rands to make our cities safer. We are still waiting for the City of Johannesburg and Tshwane Metro to respond.

Another NGO offered to give the SAPS groundbreaking technology at no cost. Again, not even a reply.

It’s simple: if these government departments are not keen on partnerships, corporates will invest their money and time elsewhere.

If the police think they can fight crime alone, good luck!

It’s time they smell the roses and wake up to the fact that they will not succeed without partnerships and support from the public.

*Yusuf Abramjee is an anti-crime activist and Namola’s Chief Ambassador
Twitter: @abramjee

Lawyers Against Abuse (LvA).

I visited Diepsloot north of Johannesburg last week and met individuals from non-profit organisation Lawyers Against Abuse (LvA).

The NGO does superb work and they assist hundreds of abused women annually. They focus on gender-based violence and their legal and counseling services are all provided free of charge.

Scores of women are raped and beaten in Diepsloot every month. Yet, a proper SAPS station was only opened last year.

I was shocked to hear from Lawyers Against Abuse that there is no post-rape medical care in Diepsloot. Victims have to travel to Roodepoort, many kilometers away.

This is a disgrace! Why do victims have to suffer further trauma?

Minutes after I tweeted this, 1st For First Women, an insurance company, responded and offered to buy the rape kits. I even had a chat with the company’s group boss, Tom Creamer, who said they are willing to assist in whatever way possible.

1st for Women later engaged directly with Lawyers against Abuse Executive Director, Lindsay Henson, and offered their full support in LvA’s advocacy efforts in trying to obtain post-rape medical care in Diepsloot, including the necessary medical facility and personnel trained to collect the forensic evidence.

Well done Tom and 1st For Women. It is companies like yours who make a difference. Thank you for leading the way.

Corporate South Africa has a pivotal role to play, especially when government fails us.

If you want to link to LvA website: www.lva.org.za
*Yusuf Abramjee is an anti-crime activist and social activist.
Twitter: @abramjee

OPEN LETTER: #MakeSAsafe

OPEN LETTER: #MakeSAsafe

Monday 19 June 2017

Dear Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers, MEC’s, Mayors, MMC’s and corporate leaders,

CRIME IN SA AND FINDING URGENT SOLUTIONS

You are fully aware that crime is affecting all of us.

Criminals are running amok and the situation does not seem to be improving. In fact, indications are that it’s getting worse.

South Africans are living in fear.

Criminals show no respect for life and property. With an average murder rate of just under 50 people each day, it is safe say: “Crime is killing South Africa.”

While the Constitution of our country guarantees us safety and security, we know we cannot depend solely on government. We need to strengthen public/private partnerships and mobilize
civil society.

We cannot only point fingers. Yes, it is our right to criticize and condemn but we must also find solutions. We must all work together to #MakeSAsafe

I accepted the role of Namola’s Chief Ambassador in December. I know that this safety app is making a difference and has the potential to make an even bigger difference in the months and years ahead.

The City of Tshwane’s TMPD launched Namola over a year ago. It has grown and developed. But, there is lots of opportunity to make it more effective – and we need the TMPD to commit further.

The Gauteng Community Safety Department under the leadership of MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane launched Namola a few weeks ago. The partnership with Gauteng Traffic is already yielding results.

MEC Nkosi-Malobane said “we have to embrace technology and improve response times…That’s what Namola is doing.”

And last week, the Mayor of Stellenbosch Gesie Van Deventer announced a partnership with Namola.

The Mayor said: “Using technology such as this in our fight against crime is an essential step in the right direction to improve the safety and security of our residents and visitors. The recent murder of a student and the rape of young girl within our municipal area have again highlighted the need for innovative thinking from local government to find and implement workable solutions. Namola provides a unique approach to improving safety and security and allows for multiple stakeholders to work together, including the Municipality, the South African Police Service and private security.”

We presented Namola to the South African Police Service (SAPS) a few months ago. It is the ideal solution to the problems being experienced at 10111 Centers. The Police’s Civil Secretariat has an e-policy and we are meeting them soon.

Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, is on record as saying that we must use technology in the fight against crime.

Namola has over 55 000 downloads. Gauteng has three control rooms and Stellenbosch is now live.

We guarantee a call-back within 90 seconds of the panic button being activated. And the nearest police and/or Metro/Traffic police vehicle will respond.

Namola will certainly contribute to #MakeSAsafe

I appeal to National, Provincial and Local Government to follow the lead taken by Tshwane, Gauteng and Stellenbosch and implement the safety app in their areas. Now is the time!

We’ve also had interest from Gauteng Disaster Management who want to use it for fire emergencies.

Happimo is the NPO that runs Namola.

It’s critical to invest time and money into the fight against crime.

Let’s cut the red-tape and get it going without delay.

We are getting requests from across South Africa.

In the informal settlement of Diepsloot north of Johannesburg we have a partnership with Memeza and when alarms are activated, the nearest police vehicle responds- thanks to Namola.

We hope to cover the entire South Africa by the end of this year- but we can only do with your support.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Cape Town Mayor, Patricia de Lille, have already shown interest in Namola.

Companies are often scared to be associated with the fight against crime because they think it’s negative. It’s not! It’s contributing to #MakeSAsafe and you have to invest into technology.

Let’s not allow criminals to ruin our country. Invest time and money and support initiatives such as Namola.

I salute people like businessman, Alan Knott-Craig, Jr, the co-founder of Namola for having the vision. Several foreign countries are already showing interest in Namola.

My concluding appeal to both the public and the private sectors: Cut the bureaucratic delays and get things going. For as long as you delay, criminals will be the only ones benefiting.

With kind regards

Yusuf Abramjee
Chief Brand Ambassador: Namola, anti-crime activist and Social Cohesion Advocate

Twitter: @abramjee

ADDRESS BY YUSUF ABRAMJEE, SOCIAL COHESION ADVOCATE

NOTES: ADDRESS BY YUSUF ABRAMJEE, SOCIAL COHESION ADVOCATE

Muslim Judicial Council
72nd anniversary: Cape Town.
Friday 10 February 2017

Congratulations to the MJC – celebrating 72 years of serving the community. We salute the leadership of the council and we wish you well.

I want to focus on a few current issues:

It is disgraceful and hurtful to see Islamophobia on the rise – locally and internationally.

Hatred for Muslims from some quarters is on the increase and the time has come for citizens to stand up, promote religious tolerance and take a stand against those who are targeting Islam.

Islam is a religion of peace. Those who carry out violence, promote discord and hatred and kill the innocent in the name of our religion should be condemned and criticized at every corner. We need to ensure that we promote peace, love, reconciliation and compassion.

We as South African Muslims should celebrate the fact that we enjoy religious freedom. Our Constitution guarantees us that. Although we are a minority in this country, we are able to exercise our religious rights freely and openly and that is something to be proud of. It’s something to celebrate.

The recent attacks on three Mosques in the Western Cape is a disgrace. We strongly condemn the acts of those who want to sow division, promote religious intolerance and those who are out to destabilize our communities. We say: Shame on you. You will not succeed by throwing pigs heads and blood in our places of worship.

My message to the culprits is clear: You will not succeed in your evil quest of tarnishing our religion. We remain hopeful that the law will come down hard on you – sooner or later. You nameless and faceless individuals should need be arrested, convicted and punished. You will eventually be exposed.

It is concerning for us as Muslims to see an increase in objections to Mosques in many areas of South Africa. There seems to be a movement at work mobilizing to try to stop the building of Muslim places of worship. We have seen it in areas like Valhalla in Pretoria, Sandton and Buccleau and now Atholl in northern Johannesburg.

The objectors use traffic and noise levels as a disguise to oppose the erection of Mosques. These same objectors will not make a noise when bottle stores, casinos and prostitution dens open right in their neighborhoods. But they mobilize when Muslims want to pray. This is a sad indictment on society. The time has come for all of us to show religious tolerance and to respect each other’s religions. We need Mosques, Churches, Temples and Synagogues side by side. We need to allow everyone the opportunity to pray and to exercise their religious freedoms. This will take us forward!

We need to respect all religions.

This week, I again saw a number of posts on social media in South Africa by individuals criticizing Muslims and Islam, insulting our beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and calling us, Muslims names.

I don’t want to repeat some of the things said…It is sickening and nauseating. Such foul, nasty and odious attacks on our religion must stop. Institutions such as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), CRL Commission and the Equality Court must act decisively and with urgency and stop the hatred which which is being spitted out by some. They need to take stern action against those individuals who cause religious and cultural divisions. We need protection and we need it now.

Early last year, I reported a number of individuals, during the height of the Valhalla Mosque Row to the CRL Commission for their Islamophobic comments on social media. They linked us to ISIS, Al Queda and Boko Haram.

Many months later, I am still waiting for a ruling. I also reported a CRL Commissioner. We are still waiting for a ruling! The delays are unacceptable.

The CRL Rights Commission is a constitutional body established in terms of the South African Constitution of 1996. Its constitutional mandate is to strengthen our constitutional democracy. But we need this Commission to act decisively to promote our religious, cultural and linguistic rights. We need them to be effective and I repeat: protect us. That’s what our Constitution dictates.

Social cohesion needs to be promoted at every turn. It is the responsibly to of every citizen to do their bit. The time has come for all of us to promote the philosophy of active citizenry. This means we have to all stand up for our rights and roll up our sleeves.

Recently, a young Cape Town woman was turned down from joining the South Africa Navy because she wears a Hijab. This is not right. It’s unacceptable. Individuals who want to exercise their religious obligations should be accommodated.

I remain hopeful that the Navy will review its decision and allow Muslims women such as Taskeen Ebrahim to wear her Hijab with pride. I know the MJC has taken up her plight and I hope we will succeed.

The so-called “Muslim Ban” by US President Donald Trump continues to draw attention and anger across the world. Trump, who clearly dislikes Mexicans and Muslims, is playing right into the hands of extremists. He is sadly giving them reason to continue carrying out acts of evil. We need bridges, not walls. We need love, not hate. Refugees seek refugee and shelter, not resentment or stigma. Trump is clearly xenophobic and we as South African Muslims join the world chorus to call on him to stop his madness. There is no place on our world for division and racism.

Let’s all continue to do our bit to make the world a better place. Let’s join hands and unite. Let’s work together to promote peace, goodwill and social cohesion. Let’s help those in need.

We have to unite. Our religious leaders must lead the way to fight social ills. Drugs, for example, are killing our people. Let’s use our podiums to inform and educate our congregations.

Crime is on the increase. It’s time for all of us to work together and reclaim our streets from the gangsters.

We need organizations like the MJC to use their wisdom to guide the jammatul Muslimeen on practical ways of applying what the former President of the MJC calls the “fiqh of citizenship.”

This is a powerful concept of teaching Muslims how to be responsible pro-active citizens. It instills social activism from an informed perspective. It promotes a Muslim citizenry aware of the power of influence and not just the influence of power. It helps in developing a caring, engaged Muslim citizenry using excellence to serve all of mankind. That is the practice of the seerah of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). That is the practice to profile our identity in a multi faith society. A practice to model the values of the Deen. A practice to advance our freedom in a culture fair way. It is time to “politicise our spirituality and spiritualise our politics” in a pro-active way.

Let’s promote intra-Muslim solidarity and economic development and support and empower our community with the life skills to walk with self assuredness as Muslims underpinned by humility.

Let me conclude by saying: All Muslims are not terrorists and extremists. We promote peace and we will continue to do so.

End

With kind regards

Yusuf Abramjee
Cell 082 4414 203
Twitter: @abramjee

Response to #SAveSyria is ‘overwhelming’

Johannesburg – More than R7 million has been paid to the #SAveSyria #OperationSA fund within five days.

#OperationSA launched the drive earlier this week in response to calls to help with humanitarian efforts in Aleppo and other parts of war-torn Syria.

“The response from South Africans has been overwhelming. We are continuing to get pledges online and via SMS,” said #OperationSA founder Yusuf Abramjee.

Almost R14-million has been pledged for #SAveSyria. A multi-channel four hour pledge line broadcast on Tuesday evening raised R 10 028 953.00

The #SAveSyria #OperationSA campaign was launched following calls to assist victims of the Syrian conflict. Abramjee with fellow social activists Yaseen Theba and Catherine Constantinides are among those behind #OperationSA.

The pledge line saw almost 800 callers and thousands of SMS’s. The biggest single pledge was R2,3 million was from the Polokwane Muslim Trust Welfare Fund for the Al-Imdaad Foundation. It has already been paid into the special fund.

Scores of young children, some donating their spending money, also called in. A Pretoria family, who did not want to be named, even cancelled their planned holiday to donate to #SAveSyria.

The money is to be distributed to seven local charities who are doing humanitarian work in Syria. They are the Al-Imdaad Foundation, Africa Muslims Agency, Jamiatul-Ulama SA, Jamiatul-Ulama KZN, Al-Quds Foundation, Muslim Judicial Council and Islamic Relief SA.

The Al-Quds Foundation is preparing a container with food and clothing and it is scheduled to leave Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“South Africans and foreigners really opened their hearts. The donations will go a long way to ease the pain and suffering of Syrians,” said Abramjee from #OperationSA

“We are witnessing ubuntu in action yet again. The response from the public has been amazing and we will ensure that every rand raised is used for humanitarian relief such as food, blankets, medicines and shelter,” added Abramjee.

He said “it was not only Muslims who were donating. People from all sectors of society are digging deep into their pockets.

“If one person suffers we all feel the pain. It is our duty to help those in need irrespective of religion, nationality or race. We are all human.

“The pledge recall rate is brilliant. We almost have 50% of the money in within such a short space of time. I have not seen such a response in all the years of charity and community work,” Abramjee told the Saturday Star.

Yaseen Theba from #OperationSA said the pledge line was a “major success.”

He said “we were not sure how much money will come in because we are in the middle of the holiday season.

“The phones did not stop ringing. The shocking images from Syria also prompted many callers to donate. The almost R14m raised in such a short period of time shows we are a caring nation,” said Theba who directed the Call Centre Operations.

Online pledges are still coming in and the public can continue donating on the website www.operationsa.org

Donations can also be made via Whats App and SMS: 072 3 99 99 99.

Catherine Constantinides said: “Thank you, thank you, thank you. South Africans never stop to amaze. They dig deep into their pockets and they always make a difference. We have hearts of gold. I am proud of my colleagues at #OperationSA, the many volunteers and sponsors. Well done also to the media for supporting the cause.”

Abramjee said he and Qari Ziyaad Patel from the Al-Imdaad Foundation will lead a delegation to the Turkish-Syrian border early in the new year “to look at conditions on the ground and the relief operations underway.”

The Al-Imdaad Foundation is co-ordinating the visit with #OperationSA and “we want to see exactly how every rand donated by people is going to be used.”

“We will not allow money donated to be used for salaries, agents fees and admin costs,” said Abramjee.

#OperationSA will continue to work locally and internationally by engaging with partners, donors and communities “to develop projects that bring relief, hope and dignity to some of the most vulnerable people.”

Abramjee and Theba were part of the team that founded Operation Hydrate earlier this year. The civil-society group donated millions of liters of water to drought-stricken communities.

Abramjee is also Chief Ambassador the CEO Sleepout SA. This year they donated R9m to three charities involved in education. Over R20m went to Boys and Girls Town last year.

“Our mission in life should be to help others in need and create a better world,” he said.

In partnership with the Al-Imdaad Foundation, Abramjee and the Operation Hydrate team also drilled boreholes in many parts of SA.

Al-Imdaad’s Projects Coordinator Qari Ziyaad Patel said : “Our teams on the ground are ready to facilitate the relief efforts on behalf of #OperationSA and with the experience and transparency we have it will indeed be and eye opener for the group.

“The situation and difficulties faced by the Syrian people is without doubt the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and together this initiative from #OperationSA will make a huge difference.”

Saturday Star