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Union in deal to donate confiscated garments to South African flood victims

13 June, 2022To help thousands living in shelters and in need of humanitarian assistance following severe flooding and landslides in some parts of South Africa in April, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU), has signed a tripartite framework agreement with clothing employers, retailers, and the South African government to support the flood victims.

So far, the agreement has resulted in the donation of 1,600 blankets, garments, textile, footwear, and leather products, to the flood victims. The donated goods were seized at ports of entry by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for customs regulations’ flouting by some importers.
The framework agreement aims at stopping the smuggling and to mitigate against market disruptions, corruption, and the threat to jobs. Additionally, it promotes industrial and trade policy tools aimed at securing and growing local jobs and manufacturing industries. The agreement was signed under the auspices of the Retail, Clothing, Textile, Footwear and Leather (R-CTFL) masterplan.
Importantly, the agreement was bolstered by a recent court case in which SARS won against the smuggling syndicates. The court confirmed that SARS acted lawfully by seizing 19 containers of undervalued imported garments in 2020. The union says the undervaluation is a common strategy used by corrupt importers to avoid paying import taxes.
In a statement, SACTWU says:

“We applaud SARS for its reinvigorated campaign to obliterate customs fraud in the garment, textile, footwear, and leather industries. We hope that this outcome sends a strong message to fraudsters and expect that swift seizures, arrests, and criminal charges will become the norm on illegal imports.”

“We initiated and concluded this new framework agreement as a determined effort to contribute concretely towards the alleviation of severe hardships that flood victims are experiencing, while simultaneously protecting our members’ jobs,”

 says André Kriel, SACTWU general secretary.

“This initiative is a testimony that tripartite agreements, as shown by the R-CFTL masterplan, are key instruments to ending the smuggling of garments and textile goods. We support SACTWU efforts to save local manufacturing industries,”

says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.
In April heavy rains of over 450 mm were recorded in some areas over 48-hours. The unusual down pours, attributed to extreme weather conditions caused by the climate crisis, caused havoc in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, North West, and Free State provinces. According to the South African government over 489 people lost their lives whilst over 63 were reported missing. Further, 4 000 homes were destroyed, and over 40 000 displaced.
The signatories to the agreement are SACTWU, another union, and the employers’ organizations: the South African Apparel Association, the Apparel and Textiles Association of South Africa, the Apparel Manufacturers of South Africa, the Textile Federation of South Africa, and the South African Footwear and Leather Export Council. The government is represented by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition, and SARS.
Retailers that signed are the National Clothing Retail Federation, representing Mr Price Group, the Foschini Group, Truworths, Woolworths, Pick ‘n Pay, Cotton On, Cape Union Mart, and Queenspark. Pepkor, Superbalist, and Retailability also signed.