UNDER PRESSURE: The local clothing and textile industry is suffering as a result of the illegal import of counterfeit goods and the import of second-hand clothing that becomes available for resale in the market. Picture: SARS

JOHANNESBURG - The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) on Friday called on the South African Revenue Service (Sars) to intensify the war on illicit, counterfeit and other smuggled products. 

Fawu members staged a protest at Sars offices in Pretoria on Thursday, demanding that the revenue service gets tougher on curbing illicit trade and stop the spread of counterfeit goods and smuggled products. 

Fawu said the failure by Sars and other law enforcement agencies to stop these products from flooding informal markets, in particular, was leading to thousands of job losses in the worst affected sectors of tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks and poultry.  

In its memorandum, Fawu and affected organisations including informal traders' associations, tobacco farmers associations, and liquor traders' organisations, declared illicit trading "a crime" and implored Sars to declare a "legal war" against it. 

They called on Sars to be at the centre of law enforcement efforts to ensure that those who comply with the laws of the country by paying tax, undergoing scrutiny of health and safety standards, and by employing workers in line with labour laws are not undermined by those engaged in illicit trading.

In response, Sars said it was putting in place smarter technology that would allow it to quickly detect the smuggling of goods and to curb the entry of counterfeit and illicitly traded products into the country. 

Sars chief officer for customs and excise Teboho Mokoena said the revenue service was also in the process of launching a more sophisticated track and trace system that would give it a clearer view of the entire tobacco production value chain, preventing illicitly traded products from flooding the market.

Mokoena said Sars was also piloting a goods control project at Durban Harbour which would improve the monitoring and inspection of goods entering and leaving the country to help it better detect smuggled and counterfeit goods.

Fawu plans to march to parliament in Cape Town on Monday and hand over a petition to the speaker calling for certain laws such as the "sugar tax" not to be signed into law but be re-negotiated.

 - African News Agency (ANA)