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The government has failed in its last-ditch bid to delay the hearing of the first legal challenge to its controversial Covid-19 tobacco ban, with the high court in Pretoria refusing to allow the state additional time before the long-awaited case is heard.

In a letter sent last week to Judge Annali Basson, one of the three judges who will hear the case brought against the state by the Free Trade and Independent Tobacco Association (Fita), a tobacco lobby group representing smaller cigarette manufacturers, state attorney Arista Wasserman suggested that the case be heard late in June or in July. This was because the government believes the case, which has raised serious questions about the rationality of the ban, is “no longer urgent”...

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