Bales of suspected counterfeit footwear detained at Kosi Bay in November this year. Photo: Supplied/Sars

CAPE TOWN – Customs officials of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) began destroying several illegally imported vehicles and clothing valued at over R7 million in Durban on Friday in a bid to clamp down on illegal imports that harm the economy.

In a statement the taxman said more than 13 000  bales of illegally imported clothing, valued at R6.75 million, as well as 15 vehicles, valued at a total of R450 000, would be destroyed.

Sars customs executive Patrick Moeng said Sars customs had destroyed 11 514 bales of clothing and footwear valued at R2.5 million and 57 vehicles valued at R7.1 million since April 1.

Moeng said the Illegal trade took place through various mechanisms that include bringing goods into the country undetected, or exporting them undetected, fraudulent shipment of goods via a third country to take advantage of preferential import duties and falsely declaring goods under tariff headings that do not attract high duties, amongst others.

A high-level inter-governmental task team has recently been established between the Department of Trade and Industry, International Trade and Administration Commission and Sars to tackle illicit trade, with a focus on clothing, textiles, leather and footwear, scrap metals and gold.

Sars said as a member of this task team it had been working intensively in three key provinces, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, with the highest import volumes in clothing and textiles.

Moeng said the devastating impact of illegal imports includes the following:

  • import duties and value added tax (VAT) due to SARS are not paid, which is a loss to the fiscus
  • distorts the local economy in the affected value chain
  • a decline in the country’s ability to manufacture goods locally
  • job losses, particularly in the manufacturing sector
  • contravention of intellectual property rights
  • discourage local companies to innovate in these sectors
  • the fuelling of corruption through these illegal activities.

Moeng said illegal imports posed a significant health risk for consumers through the availability of underpriced and unregulated cigarettes that conflicts with government’s health policy.

Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said recently that there was no reason why Sars and the Freight Forwarding Industry could not embark on a new round of collaboration that was focused on increased connectivity and the use of digital technologies in the interest, ultimately, of economic growth and the reduction of poverty.

BUSINESS REPORT