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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

High court interdicts SARS from installing CCTV cameras in cigarette factories

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The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has issued interdict barring the South African Revenue Service (SARS) from installing CCTV cameras at tobacco-manufacturing warehouses.

The application was brought by Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) after a rule was introduced in August 2022 which allowed SARS to install surveillance in factories in an effort to combat illicit activities.

FITA said the new law was a violation of privacy. The association represents at least 80% of licensed cigarette manufacturers in the country.

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, FITA chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni said SARS was in violation of the constitution and manufactures privacy.

“Their law was arbitrary, it hasn’t been applied in terms of the global standard anywhere in the democratic world. It has only been applied in countries such as Vietnam and China.

“The court sided with us and said this is a blunt instrument, it doesn’t only assist the tax collector in collecting information in as far as its obligation from the tax collection point of view, but it goes further than that, it collects everything that is visible to the camera.

“This constitutes violation to privacy in as far as both the employees and the owners of the factors. Its a violation to employees who have not consented to a 24-hour surveillance and with all sorts of information being available to SARS,” Mnguni told the broadcaster.

Meanwhile, SARS argued that it loses billions in annual revenue due to tobacco tax evasion.

This might be a short victory for FITA as the main application regarding the CCTV rule is yet to be heard.

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