Cape Town - Draft legislation intended to ease the business licensing process and at the same time crack down on illicit business activities has been published for public comment.
There is a proliferation of illegal or semi-legal activities taking place across the country, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said at Parliament on Wednesday.
“All kinds of outlets (are) springing up that may well be involved in illegal imports and things of that sort. So, we have been saying for some time that we need to crack down on things like illegal imports, or sub-standard goods, or counterfeit goods, and things of that sort.”
It was not just a matter of dealing with it at the ports of entry. It was also a question of dealing with it in any outlet that might be involved, Davies said.
The Licensing of Businesses Bill would provide a simple enabling framework for business licence application procedures by setting norms and standards. A cheap, easy, and accessible process to register businesses at local government level was needed, he said.
Any person wanting to run a business, whether formal or informal, would have to register with a municipality.
Among other things, licensing authorities had to issue business licenses within 30 days of the application. However, the authority could extend this period by 14 days under certain circumstances.
“But, if you don't get a response (from the authority) within that time-frame, then you are deemed to have been registered. If you are asked to provide further particulars...(and) you don't do so, then you are deemed to have withdrawn your application.”
A licence would be valid for five years before having to be renewed via a simple process.
The bill also provided for a licence to be revoked under certain circumstances.
Davies said an important feature of the bill was clauses 18 and 19.
“We are saying we want an easy, simple, straightforward process for legal business activities.
“But, if you are found guilty of a number of offences, such as selling counterfeit goods... 1/8and have 3/8 contravened the Customs and Excise Act, in other words you've been involved in illegal imports, found guilty of contravening the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics, and Disinfectants Act, been selling sub-standard products, employing illegal foreigners, or found guilty of conducting illegal business from the licensed premises, you've been doing drug trade or illegal liquor selling or anything of the sort... your licence is automatically revoked.
“So we say, easy in, easy out. You do any of those things, we don't want you,” he said.
The bill also deals with, among other things, fronting practices, transferring licences, and a licensing inspectorate process.
Davies said the bill thus provided a tool to “know who is conducting business in our localities, and secondly to make sure that within the framework of business activities... we cut out illicit activities”. - Sapa