President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised workers that government will do more to clamp down on the illegal importation of Chinese clothing and textiles which undercut locally manufactured goods.
Ramaphosa was addressing the national congress of the Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union in Durban on Monday.
"When we allow illicit goods to come in it undermines you, it undercuts you, and it destroys your jobs," Ramaphosa said to applause.
Thousands of raids
In an hour-long address, Ramaphosa told delegates that the SA Revenue Service has been ramping up its investigative and enforcement capacity to better counter illegal clothing imports, which have contributed to job losses in SA's clothing and textile industry. This forms part of the tax agency's illicit economy unit, which is also seeking to disrupt the illegal tobacco and fuel trade.
Ramaphosa said that, between July and September, the revenue collection agency had conducted 2 500 raids searching for counterfeit and illegally imported goods. The raids had netted goods with an estimated value of over R1bn. He said many of the goods uncovered in the raids were clothes and textiles.
The president told delegates that Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel had met with China's ambassador to SA, as well as the country's vice-minister of trade, to discuss illegal imports and under-invoicing of clothing and textiles.
Ramaphosa also said government would become more vigilant in enforcing 'buy local' procurement provisions to support the local clothing and textile industry.
"At times we have not been as vigilant as we should be, and we are now going to be more vigilant as we are getting cleverer and wiser by the day as an entrepreneurial state," he said.
He told delegates that the the African Continental Free Trade Agreement - which will create the world's largest free trade area once operational - would open the continent up to South African imports.
During his address Ramaphosa also said his apology to Zimbabweans over the weekend was necessary after xenophobic attacks tarnished South Africa's international reputation.