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Last updated: 08 March 2018

FAWU Calls On SARS To Intensify "Legal War" On Illicit, Counterfeit and Other Smuggled Products In Line With Its Pledge To Protesters

8 March 2018

Addressing the protesters to its offices, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is putting in place smarter technology that will allow it to quickly detect the smuggling of goods and to curb the entry of counterfeit and illicitly traded products into the country. It is also in the process of launching a more sophisticated track and trace system that will give it a clearer view of the entire tobacco production value chain in a bid to prevent illicitly traded tobacco products from flooding the market.

This pledge was made by Mr Teboho Mokoena, Chief Officer for Customs and Excise at SARS, when he received a memorandum from thousands protesters; comprised of Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) members, small businesses and traditional traders; who marched on its Pretoria head office on Tuesday. They were demanding that SARS get tougher on curbing illicit trade and stop the spread of counterfeit goods and smuggled products. An inability by SARS and other law enforcement agencies to stop these products from flooding, especially the informal, markets is leading to thousands of job losses in the worst affected sectors of tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks and poultry.

Accepting the memorandum, Mr Mokoena reiterated SARS` commitment to establishing a joint forum with FAWU where issues addressed in the memorandum will be discussed formally.

Such a forum will also serve as information sharing platform and comparing notes on progress in this regard. That forum will consider sector specific initiatives and campaigns designed to address all the challenges in various industries and value-chains as highlighted in the memorandum. "To this extent and on behalf of SARS, I hereby undertake to ensure that the memorandum is duly responded to, within the stipulated deadline," he said.

Mokoena added that SARS was piloting a goods control project at Durban Harbour which would improve the monitoring and inspection of goods that enter and leave the country to enable it to better detect smuggled and counterfeit goods, as well as illicit products.

In the memorandum, FAWU and affected organisations that marched alongside it - including informal traders` associations, tobacco farmers associations and liquor traders` organisations - declared illicit trading "a crime" and implored on SARS to declare a "legal war" against it.

The Memo of Petition essentially called on SARS must be at the centre of law enforcement efforts to eradicate illicit trade and 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 unfairly harmed and destroyed by those engaged in illicit (trading)," read the memorandum.

The illicit economy costs South Africa up to 10% of its Gross Domestic Product, running into tens of billions of rand, and is largely concentrated in mining, alcohol, tobacco, medicine, poultry and other industries. In the tobacco industry alone, the state loses up to R7 billion per annum in taxes because illicit traders under-declare their products.

Meanwhile, FAWU will be proceeding with its protest march to Parliament in Cape Town on 12th March 2018 (Monday) starting at 11h30 from Kaizergracht street and proceeding to Darling street and up to Plein street and to gather at 90 Plein next to parliament.

The purpose of the protest is to hand over a Memo of Petition to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Baleka Mbeta, or her delegated personnel which will call for the inappropriate laws and policies to be not effected owing to FAWU`s and SAFT`s exclusion at NEDLAC when those were "negotiated".

  • For the Sugar Tax not to be signed into law but be re-negotiated with the excluded FAWU, which represents a vast majority of workers;
  • Tobacco Amendments discussions to be taken to a task team including FAWU than being at NEDLAC with FAWU, representing vast many workers in the tobacco value-chain;
  • Liquor Bill discussions to be also taken to a task team for the same reasons as above;
  • For the summit on transformation and sustainability of the fishing sector to be convened for discussions on Fishing Rights in 2020;
  • For the Poultry Crises task team to fast-track its work as the harm on the sector continues unabated.

The next focus will be targeting all the major supermarkets and retail chain-stores with protest marches aimed at their head offices planned for April 2018.

For further comment please contact FAWU General-Secretary Katishi Masemola on 0824672509

Issued by:

Dominique Martin
FAWU Media Officer