The possession of cigarettes during the lockdown is not a crime, and police officers may not compel you to give an explanation on why you have it on your person, despite comments made by Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Criminal law expert James Grant told News24 that no person may be compelled to give an explanation to a police officer as to any circumstance in which she or he is found without infringing that person's right to silence.
The one is that a police officer may require a reasonable explanation where there is a reasonable suspicion that items in a person's possession are stolen.
No legal duty to explain possession of cigarettes
Wits School of Law Professor Stephen Tuson has the same opinion: there is no legal duty to explain why a person is in possession of cigarettes.
Grant also contended that, in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, which has not been suspended during the lockdown, a police official may also not arrest a person for suspected contravention of any Covid-19 regulation – unless the offence is committed in the officer's presence.