What South Africans must do to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19 infections
It is key to continue high-impact non-pharmaceutical interventions that will not impede economic activity, but limit the spread of COVID-19.
It is key to continue high-impact non-pharmaceutical interventions that will not impede economic activity, but limit the spread of COVID-19.
The 2020 Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will run for one month from 20 October to 20 November 2020.
Civil society organisations and affected communities host an interactive workshop on the second revised draft of the binding treaty on business and human rights
Clashes between mining companies and communities are often about the age-old question of whether mining can benefit the many or only a selected few.
This week CALS signed a memorandum of understanding with the African chapter of the Attorney General Alliance (AGA-Africa)
CALS represents Eastern Cape activist Lungile Mxube who will be appearing in court on Thursday for a defamation case we argue is meritless
On 6 October, CALS and ACCA will be hosting a webinar to formulate an African response to the current draft of the Binding Treaty on Business & Human Rights
We welcome the news that South Africa will move to national lockdown level 1 from Monday, 21 September 2020.
Read the latest issue of our quarterly newsletter – featuring game-changing judgments, celebrations, our brand new moot court competition and more
Digital divides ensure that only 11% of households have access to the internet.
CALS and the Student Litigation Society invite students of law at South African universities to participate in a Public Interest Law Moot Court Competition
Communities all over South Africa are faced with a water crisis resulting from systemic governance failures
Join us for the virtual launch of "A Better Future: The Role of Higher Education for Displaced and Marginalised People" on 2 October 2020 from 15:30 SAST
A balancing act between scientific data and health and broader socioeconomic implications is needed when policymakers prioritise interventions and measures.
The experience of the Oxford vaccine and the measures put into place are not unusual. Many phase one and phase two clinical trials have holding rules.
CALS Acting Deputy Director, Palesa Madi, and Stanley Malematja from Right2Protest appear on this year's list of the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans
CALS mourns the loss of a true giant of human rights lawyering, our friend and colleague George Bizos
Pasha 80: Fighting the coronavirus can put severe strain on a person’s mental health.
Rest in peace Advocate Bizos, knowing that you have left a lasting legacy in gifting freedom to our people.
One week after the High Court ruled sheep may only be exported live by sea under strict welfare standards, they are already being loaded onto a waiting ship
Pasha 78: Listen to Professor Shabir Madhi, explaining how the new vaccine trial will work
Many voice concern over the judgment against Beatrice Mtetwa which undermines the right to freedom of expression and rights of the accused and detained
Poor populations bore a disproportionately higher burden of poor health.
SA should fire the current Cabinet and set up a national “emergency” one with the best talents in the country prevent it from plunging down the cliff.
When university resources are scarce, building and sustaining equitable research excellence should be paramount.
Wits is top of the class in the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Three South African vice-chancellors paint a post-COVID picture for universities.
Women’s extended working days have become normalised, despite the adverse effects on their progression within the labour market and general well-being.
Special Report by the Wits School of Accounting on how companies should manage the Covid-19 pandemic.
The third in a series of expert advisories on how to respond to Covid-19 which will be published from time to time by Maverick Citizen.
This is the second of a series of Expert Advisories on how to respond to Covid-19 which will be published from time to time by Maverick Citizen.
This is the first of a series of expert advisories on how to respond to Covid-19 which will be published from time to time by Maverick Citizen.
The Eastern Cape High Court is set to hear arguments in an interdict to prevent around 70,000 sheep from being exported live to the Middle East
Join us for a virtual workshop on Decolonial Comparative Law from 6 - 7 October co-hosted with the Wits School of Law and the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg
Limpopo communities call for officials to face jail time and personal costs for consistent failure to provide water in line with court orders even amid pandemic
The remarkable economic transformation of Asia in recent decades has attracted global attention.
Changing social norms in a short amount of time is difficult, and a one-size-fits all policy is unlikely to have the desired effect.
The University of the Witwatersrand is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Maurice Radebe as the new Head and Director of the Wits Business School (WBS).
Investments are starting to help grow the African continent's science preparedness.
Africa accounts for nearly 27% of the World Trade Organisation's membership and 35% of members from developing countries, but an African has never run it.
CALS welcomes the appointment of Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health
Even though women have suffered two thirds of the job losses since February, men have received two thirds of Covid-19 grants (65%).
There is concern over the growing influence of non-regional players in decision making at the regional bank.
South Africa’s opposition parties appear to be confused, chasing shadows or paralysed by the enormity of the Covid-19 crisis.
With the onset of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, working and studying remotely have increased the risk of cybercrime.
Witsies, please take care, adhere to social distancing and follow Covid-19 protocols.
Not enough clinical research is being done in Africa. This has repercussions for when interventions become available and effective in high income countries.
Increased capital investment and productivity need not result in job losses. Industrial policy can link investment incentives to job preservation and creation.
Government urgently needs an integrated Covid-19 response to deal with mental illness, violence and crime.
Students who are scheduled to return as part of phase 2, will return in mid-July.
SA had to have a hard lockdown because we don’t trust our government. Little since has made us change our minds.
South Africa's public health system has been allocated R21.5 billion more to fight the Covid-19 pandemic but there's no strategy to guide how it should be used.
South Africa will have to prioritise new business, employment and growth based on the current and new domestic and global needs unleashed by Covid-19.
Understand the three things that can make the most difference to easing the lockdown and reopening South Africa with the least risk.
The budget is one of the key tools that government has to effect meaningful change.
Professor Zeblon Vilakazi appointed as the Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal from 1 January 2021
The first participants in South Africa's first clinical trial for a vaccine against Covid-19 will be vaccinated this week.
Testing and tracing has not been at a level needed to suppress the spread and must now focus on containing opportunities for super-spreading and transmissions.
South Africa needs to focus urgently on how COVID-19 will reshape its labour market.
Government is steaming ahead with the reopening of schools. This is an overly hasty, ill-considered step for a number of reasons.
Detecting fever requires measuring core body temperature. Screening measures the body's surface temperature.
South Africa’s governance model, the way the country is run, is broken.
What we've been working on during lockdown, featuring human rights defenders facing SLAPP suits, the difficulties of trying to stay home without a home and more
Students and staff members who have not already done so, must complete the student survey or staff survey before 8pm on Thursday, 11 June 2020.
By identifying the roots of global ills there's an opportunity for coordinated action as countries lay new pathways for a post-Covid world.
Pasha 66 - The Conversation Africa's podcast series focus on questions arising from the symptoms of people who have contracted the coronavirus.
Self-screening form on the app is for staff members with permits to be on campus, and students who have been invited to return to campus only.
CALS is very pleased to be partnering with the Nelson Mandela Foundation on a project addressing home, land and tenure issues during lockdown
We are intervening in a 'defamation' case against environmental activists we believe is a perfect example of strategic litigation against public participation
Join the Climate Justice Coalition in calling for a green new Eskom at a digital rally this World Environment Day
Social justice movements and organisations call on government to a reinstate blanket ban on evictions
To mark his first anniversary with us, CALS would like to show our appreciation for a leader who has proved both brilliant and compassionate in trying times
South Africa should use its remaining AGOA window to find other export markets and retool its economy - as US economic attitude towards Africa hardens.
New level 3 regulations mark an important strategic shift in the government’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
The testing backlog and proposed testing strategies outside hospital settings are threatening patient management and compromising health care workers’ safety.
The most profound change is the accelerated of way in which digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have moved at warp speed.
New initiative provides students with data to access selected URLs through the Wits network.
So-called African solutions that are often uncritically accepted as ‘good’ do nothing for the continent
Statement of Support for Professor Glenda Gray and the Principle of Academic Freedom of Speech.
Book sheds new light on the evolution of the economic policy of the African National Congress, South Africa's governing party.
The four telecommunications companies agree to extend the provision of data to students for another 15 days.
That Covid-19, the lockdown and whatever will come after will have had a lasting and devastating impact on our economy seems indisputable.
CALS has been admitted as a friend of the court in a matter where the City is attempting to block human rights monitors from accessing a shelter
The Reserve Bank should be allowed to buy more government bonds and securities to support the liquidity of the banking system.
South Africa should base its COVID-19 mitigation strategy on the premise that the pandemic will last for two years unless a vaccine is developed before then.
Ramaphosa's call for a new social compact will fall on deaf ears unless there are some fundamental changes to the way in which the pandemic is being managed.
A reminder to all students and staff about Wits' mental health and wellbeing services that are available to you during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
A member of staff of the Wits Law Clinic is the first attorney in Gauteng to be admitted to the high court online.
Dozens of organisations have endorsed a letter to the National Command Council asking for the moratorium on evictions to continue during alert level four
SA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic was one of 'intervene first and ask questions later'. Now is the time for government say what its strategic endgame is.
The Labour Court has ordered the state to adopt measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in mines and to engage meaningfully with affected communities
Civil society is still concerned over the exclusion of mining affected communities from deliberations and lack of measures to protect them from the coronavirus
Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky argues that our work trying to hold apartheid's banks to account shows the need for urgent reform of the OECD accountability mechanism
A wealth tax on the top 1% of South Africans could raise R143 billion. This corresponds to 29% of the R500 billion COVID-19 package announced by the government.
The SANDF and SAPS should not enforce the COVID-19 lockdown at the expense of undermining human rights, personal dignity and common sense.
Getting food to the vulnerable, needy and poor during the COVID-19 lockdown is now increasingly urgent.
Community network MACUA, represented by CALS, is applying to intervene as a friend of the court in AMCU's urgent Labour Court application
A major step forward, but some warning lights are flashing. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s social and economic rescue package leaves some questions unanswered.
We’d all love to know more about our neighbours – from COVID-19 data, census data and other official data sources – but we shouldn't.
Given the protracted nature of the risk posed by the COVID-19, this paper seeks to address the need to match health prevention and a viable economy.
These Wits heroes represent just a fraction of the clinical, academic, professional and administrative staff, alumni and students responding to this disaster.
University human rights centres call for South African government’s intervention on correctional centres’ conditions during the coronavirus pandemic
Wits University has adopted the Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings (GCC) to curtail the practice of ethics dumping.
South Africa cannot afford to embark on a strategy of extended periodic lockdowns. It needs to shift to mass testing and contact tracing.
We respond to the amendments to Lockdown regulations relating to the mining sector
University centres call on the state to address the plight of migrants during the coronavirus crisis
Civil society writes to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Gwede Mantashe on measures to protect mining-affected communities and workers from coronavirus
Crowdsourcing is a promising approach to biomedical research and development (R&D) and could produce solutions to pandemics like this one.
50+ economists and others from Wits are part of a group of more than 78 who wrote an open letter urging President Cyril Ramaphosa for more significant action.
A response to the State identifying areas for de-densification in an effort to combat the spread of Coronavirus
To stop economic destruction, we need to refocus vast resources from other productive activity – a truly grand prize might do the trick.
The virus has wiped billions from stock exchanges globally. Now is the time to re-evaluate and promote domestic private investment.
The Covid-19 crisis is first and foremost a health and humanitarian crisis is likely to have lasting impacts on how we live.
Amongst the best in their fields, Wits experts are at the frontlines and behind-the-scenes against COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
27 social justice movements and organisations have written to government calling for a moratorium on all evictions in light of the coronavirus pandemic
Read the latest issue of our quarterly newsletter – find out about social justice in the time of a pandemic, recent access to info victories and more
CALS is set to appear in the Palmridge Magistrates Court to defend a woman accused of killing her abusive partner during an incident of domestic violence
The Department of Correctional Services has complied with a court order to release a report on incidents at Mangaung Correctional Centre
We appeared in the High Court last week representing an individual moved to South Africa’s only super maximum security prison for no clear reason
Mervyn King, Chair of the King Committee on Corporate Governance in South Africa has been appointed honorary professor at Wits Business School.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has used this year’s SONA to signal that he understands what needs to be done in order to overcome South Africa’s electricity crisis.
On 19 February the Civil Society Working Group on State Capture will launch a joint submission to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry
The challenge to deliver a persuasive speech comes firstly in the context of intense doubts as to whether President Ramaphosa is truly in charge of the ANC.
The number of users is likely to grow and there are health risks, so now is the time to act.
Today the High Court granted us access to a report into incidents at G4S-run Mangaung Correctional Centre and ordered G4S and the state to pay our costs
CALS will be in the Pretoria High Court on 10 February, arguing that mining communities should be able to access mining rights applications
Join us for a side event at this year's Alternative Mining Indaba hosted in partnership with the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Sanibonani. Good morning new Wits students. Welcome to Wits and welcome to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management.
On Friday, 31 January, members of mining affected community networks and civil society groups will hand deliver comments on two important bills to the DMR
Communities call for officials to face jail time and personal costs for consistent failure to provide water in line with court order
The digital economy will, soon, become the ordinary economy as the uptake - and application - of digital technologies in every sector in the world grows.
The deluge of opinions and proposed solutions to South Africa's energy crisis reflects corporate and political interests.
Three Wits students are aiming to secure top positions in a national competition for economics students.
This is an adaptation of a speech given at the BUSA Business Economic Indaba in Sandton on Tuesday 14 January 2020.
With the world facing a climate emergency, higher education institutions should lead in securing a future for our children.
COLUMN: Reflections on former Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron’s critical jurisprudence and the environment.
COLUMN: While there is paralysis from above, exciting new forms of movement-building from below in Africa are saying ‘No to climate genocide!’
Opportunity for South Africa to transition from being a key contributor to global warming to becoming a key contributor to global emissions reductions.
Successful coalition governance ultimately depends on political maturity and the ability to govern across divisions.
Three South African cities run by opposition party coalitions for the past three years have been facing tough times.
CALS appeared in the Constitutional Court today for a landmark judgment that confirms a person can be found guilty of rape on the basis of common purpose
Not all droughts are the same and South Africa needs to have a targeted approach to each type.
Young entrepreneur in the spotlight during Global Entrepreneurship Week running from 18 – 24 November 2019.
Maverick Citizen: Transitional Compass 2 looks at how precarious workers are challenging the practices of the established unions.
South Africa's Department of Water and Sanitation has plans in place to ensure adequate water supply until 2040 and beyond.
Wits Business School Head Dr Sibusiso Sibisito to lead new Artificial Intelligence, Technology and Finance Initiative
Four Wits academics appointed to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Economic Advisory Council.
25 years ago, citizens hoped a post-apartheid SA would be a fresh start. Today, political and business leaders stand accused of money laundering and bribery.
South Africa's planned NHI has no equivalent in any setting in the world. It's deeply flawed on a number of fronts.
Migration from rural areas to cities can be slowed down with integrated agriculture value chains.
The number of workers employed has actually gone up and the numbers of workers trying to find a job has gone up too.
The roles and practices of companies like Google and Facebook must be investigated.
At the centre of the demands is the communities’ struggle for the industry and government to recognise the right to free prior and informed consent.
Over 40 Wits alumni, students and staff members were included in the 2019 Mail and Guardian Top 200 supplement.
The book, 'The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America', helps make sense of the mess the world’s in
Social pacts in agriculture, energy and mining, between business, labour and communities, will be crucial to lift market confidence and growth levels.
The recent squabble over the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank has very little to do with real economic policies.
Countries that use an inflation target to anchor monetary policy pay considerable attention to expectations of future inflation.
Unless the government regulates the economy effectively, it will generate growth that accrues disproportionately to those with wealth and power.
The Law Clinic calls on women trapped in fraudulent marriages to come forward as it prepares legal action against the state.
The School of Accountancy celebrated the excellent results of its top students.
South Africans recently went to the polls in a national election which the African National Congress (ANC) won by a wide margin.
South Africa’s black middle class is growing numerically – and growing politically restive.
Voting for the ANC come the 2019 election will be a calculated but inescapably blindfolded leap of faith for many South African voters.
Witsies are poised to impress at the country’s premier competition for budding economists.
The South African Reserve Bank placed VBS, a small mutual bank, under curatorship in March this year against a backdrop of a serious liquidity crisis.
- Professor Jason Cohen, Commerce, Law & Management Faculty Deputy Dean
Sanibonani. Good morning new Wits students. Welcome to Wits and welcome to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management.
The Dean of our Faculty is Professor Imraan Valodia. I am not him. He could not be here today as he is overseas and coming back next week from Edinburgh University in Scotland. iGama lami u Professor Jason Cohen. I am the Deputy Dean for the Faculty and it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you all here today.
As Deans we get to stand up in this Wits Great Hall and step to the microphone on the podium here on two occasions. The first is during orientation to welcome you to Wits. The second is when we call your name at graduation and you walk across this stage to receive your degree. It would be my honour to call all your names at graduation a few years from now.
This year we are welcoming around 1000 new first year students to the commerce, law and management faculty at wits. This is 1000 students against 30,000 applications to study in our faculty. You have done well to get here. Sitting here is a result of the hours you spent away from family and friends in order to study for matric. It is a result of the countless number of times you had to say “no” to other choices in your life in order to say “yes” to your studies and to your future. Every morning that you fought through the traffic or stood in line to catch public transport or walked to school to get to class on time. You are here because of that diligence and focus, your ability to manage your time, to be prepared and to do what was necessary to excel. These are qualities that will serve you well in the years ahead.
When people think of Wits they often think of the great alumni like Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Ruth First, William Kentridge and our very own Chancellor, Dr Judy Dlamini. Or you may have heard of other CLM alumni like Brian Joffe (of Bidvest) or the late Donald Gordon (Liberty Life).
But there is something magical about the setting of Wits University, in the heart of the country’s economic hub that inspires so many of our graduates to do great things.
Like Nhlanhla Dlamini, a student I taught a little over 15 years ago in our BCom programme. He went on to a masters at Oxford then an MBA from Harvard, worked for companies such as McKinsey and Morgan Stanley investment bank, and is now one of South Africa’s top industrialists.
Miles Kubheka, who did his Bachelor of Commerce Honours with us 20 years ago. I remember talking to him about his reservations of taking up an internship at a software company. He is now a restauranteer and author. You may have heard of his restaurant Vuyo’s in Vilakazi Street Soweto.
If we look a little further back, Wanda Orlikowski got her BCom in 1977 and her MCom in 1982. She is considered a leading global scholar at MIT writing about the 4th Industrial Revolution and effects of technology on organisations.
Felicia Kentridge established the Wits Law Clinic in 1973, one of the first public interest law clinics in the country. In 1979, with Arthur Chaskalson, she set up the Legal Resources Centre which went on to do groundbreaking work including compelling the Mbeki government to provide Nevirapine to HIV positive mothers which marked a turning point in the governments AIDS policy; and just last year the Law Clinic took up the case of a number of women who had been trapped into fraudulent marriages. A case that many law students were involved in under Professor Phillipa Kruger.
Bonita Myersfeld, did her LLB at Wits, went on to a PhD at Yale. And is back as a professor at Wits and just recently given a National Order of Merit by the President of France in recognition of her work on gender-based violence.
Our economics students consistently excel in the Nedbank & Old Mutual Budget Speech competition, and last year the postgraduate section of the competition was won by our Masters student, Baneng Naape, for his essay on Disciplined Fiscal Policy in South Africa.
Vuyo Jack studied Accountancy here, a CA, and is now the executive chairman of Empowerdex, South Africa’s best known black economic empowerment rating agency. Our school of accountancy is indeed transforming the accounting profession of this country, producing among the highest pass rates in the SAICA CA exams – with numbers of successful African candidate far in excess of universities such as UCT, Stellenbosch and Pretoria.
I guess I could go on and on, and there are many more wonderful examples of successful people in commerce, accountancy and law who sat in the very lecture halls you will find yourselves next week.
I cannot guess how your lives will turn out, but if there is one thing I am quite sure of, looking at the examples that I have just cited, it is very unlikely that your careers will follow the path you are imagining right now.
The next few years of your life will be interesting and challenging and sometimes confusing and sometimes difficult. Some of you may realise quite early that the programme you have registered for is not what you expected, and you will change courses; some of you will fail a course or two and pick up new areas of interest, and many of you will change direction significantly once you complete your degree.
You have the advantage of being in the economic, the political and the technological hub of the country; and at the same time having the best academic minds to guide you through the next few years. You will learn facts, but you will also learn skills and concepts and engage robustly in ideas.
Being able to study here - at Wits - at the top University on the African continent, means that you have risen above thousands, thousands of others. And I want you to also think about what the opportunity means. We have great expectations of you. Your leadership role does not just begin when you graduate from Wits. We expect you to be leaders now. And we want you to use that leadership to effect positive change in our society, our city, our campus, in your classrooms and in your residences.
Of course, I should also mention that you must prepare for tough times. University is very different from school. You might feel overwhelmed. You might question whether you’ve registered for the right thing. You might feel depressed and lonely. And while it is our job to give you the best guidance, teaching and mentorship possible, it is also our responsibility to give you as much support as possible. Wits has excellent support structure to help you with all of this. We have counseling, we have study support, we have tutors and psychologists and medical people. We have people dedicated to help you navigate the personal and academic challenges that come with studying at university. These resources are all at your disposal to make your journey through Wits as smooth and enjoyable as possible. We want you to be healthy and have balance; to be enriched by your studies; to make new friends and meet interesting new people; to try new activities and stretch your minds.
I wish you well. You will learn wonderful things whether it is in your Bachelor of Accounting Science or your BCom, in your Bachelor of Economic Science or your LLB. I hope your journey here with us will feel enriching and valuable. Congratulations on choosing to study at Africa’s top university and may you be inspired to make your mark in this world and continue the proud tradition of our heroic alumni. Welcome to Wits and to CLM.
- Laura Rossouw
Opinions differ on how to regulate electronic cigarettes. But dozens of countries are taking action.
In Africa, Kenya already taxes these products, and South Africa is preparing to follow. E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, which has harmful health effects. But they often contain highly addictive nicotine and have their own negative health risks.
Some people use e-cigarettes when they are trying to stop smoking combustible cigarettes.
In the US studies have shown that young non-smokers are taking up e-cigarettes in growing numbers. About 1.3 million adolescents started smoking e-cigarettes between 2017 and 2018. Hospitalisations and deaths as a result of lung injury also rose.
The market for e-cigarettes is expanding with a rapid increase in the number and variety of products being sold. In early 2014, there were already 466 e-cigarette brands.
A study done four years ago in South Africa showed that 2% of adult women and 3% of men were using e-cigarettes. This compared with 7% of adult women and 37% of adult men smoking tobacco.
E-cigarettes are unregulated in the country, yet their marketing and sale is proliferating on online platforms. This suggests that the number of e-cigarette consumers in South Africa is likely to grow in line with global trends.
The country can learn from its experience of implementing tobacco controls. In 1990 the government introduced warnings on cigarette packet labels and banned smoking on public transport. It also raised taxes on cigarettes. Between 1990 and 2012, real excise taxes rose by 522%. Over this period, adult smoking rates dropped from 33% to 20%.
A similar approach should be adopted to deter non-smokers from starting to use e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes don’t fall under the current Tobacco Products Control Act. Technically, they fall under the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1965. They are supposed to be registered with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and sold by prescription only.
In practice they are not being marketed as a way to stop smoking, but rather as a consumer product. They are sold in kiosks and regular shops.
A new tobacco control bill published by the South African health department suggests regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
There are three possible ways to deal with e-cigarettes: banning them, regulating them and taxing them.
Which avenue to pursue should be based on information about user behaviour and long-term effects on health because different kinds of regulation may have different effects on behaviour.
The banning option: In 2019, e-cigarette sales were banned in 28 countries, among them Brazil and India.
The ban is sometimes based on the concern that reintroducing a nicotine product into the market might contribute to normalising combustible cigarette use. There are also concerns about the role that the tobacco industry is playing in the market. Some cigarette manufacturers, such as British American Tobacco and Altria, are buying stakes in e-cigarette companies.
Banning e-cigarettes may be difficult once demand is established.
Our work at a research unit that looks at using taxes to reduce the use of products has shown that taxation is a very cost efficient strategy to discourage consumption of combustible cigarettes. It also creates a stream of revenue for the government. The same would be true for e-cigarettes. The size of the additional revenue stream would depend on consumption numbers, the tax rate and the level of tax evasion.
South Africa’s national treasury has indicated its intention to tax e-cigarettes, but not yet how and at what level.
Several European and Asian countries and some US states have started taxing e-liquids. The impact on consumption has not yet been quantified. One study focusing on six countries in Europe predicted that a 10% increase in the price of e-cigarettes would lead to a drop in e-cigarette use of 2.7% in the short run and 11.5% in the long run. The only African country to have taxed e-cigarettes is Kenya, which imposes a tax of 3,000 Kenyan shillings (around US$30) per e-cigarette device and 2,500 Kenyan shillings per cartridge.
Taxing the liquids used in e-cigarettes could be based on nicotine content or on a value such as production cost or retail price. The trouble with taxing by nicotine content is that it would require regular laboratory testing of products to detect tax evasion. The most practical option for the South African context may be to base the tax on the volume of e-liquid.
After establishing an efficient tax structure, the next step would be to decide the tax level – one that encourages the desired behaviour. This requires a lot of comparable information about products. In the absence of its own database, a country like South Africa could rather follow the example of other countries that tax e-liquid volumes.
Regulation: Before e-cigarettes can be regulated they need to be included under the Tobacco Control Act. This would make them open to regulatory intervention.
Regulations could include: a ban on smoking in public spaces, a ban on sales to minors, banning advertising (including promotion, product placement and sponsorship) and including health warnings on packaging.
An additional option would be to regulate the characteristics of products. The European Union’s approach has been to limit the nicotine concentration in e-liquids and the volume of an e-liquid refill and disposable cartridges. This would prevent high-nicotine products from entering the market.
South Africa’s National Department of Health is considering the draft bill on tobacco products and electronic delivery systems. This would include e-cigarettes as tobacco products, opening the door to being able to regulate and tax them.
This should become law as soon as possible to prevent a rise in demand. And it should be accompanied by a clear policy from the National Treasury on the structure and level of taxing e-cigarettes.
Delaying adoption of these policies is a missed opportunity to tackle the problem while it is still manageable.