The trade surplus stood at R12 billion, way above market expectations of a R6 billion surplus, from a deficit of R7 billon, data from Statistics SA revealed on Tuesday.
The data showed imports had fallen nearly 20 percent to R19.75 billion in the month. Imports of equipment components fell the most, by 53 percent, followed by clothing and toys, as well as textiles, which decreased 45 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
Investec economist Kamilla Kaplan said traditionally, the trade account registered a surplus in the month of December mainly on account of a steep decline in imports.
She said the surplus was unsurprising given the low levels of growth in an economy where businesses and people were spending less money.