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The Common Customs Area

South Africa has established, with her neighbours, the Southern African Customs Union, whose combined areas are also known as the Common Customs Area. The purpose is to facilitate regional trade; and, in the process, foster economic growth and development.

The object of the International Trade Administration Act 20021 is to support these purposes, by establishing an efficient and effective system for the administration of international trade within the Common Customs Area.

The Act established the International Trade Administration Commission. Its function is to monitor, investigate and evaluate customs duties, anti-dumping complaints, and remedies or procedures for use in response to disruptive competition from countries outside the Union. The officers who carry out these functions have wide powers of investigative search and inspection.

A. Permits

  1. It is an offence to contravene or fail to comply with any regulation promulgated by the Minister of Trade and Industry under the Act. These concern, generally, prohibitions on the import and export of goods of specified classes or kinds.2

  2. Any person may apply to the Commission for an import or export control permit, a rebate, or the amendment of customs duties. It is an offence:

    • to provide false information to the Commission;
    • to fail to comply with any condition of a permit.3

B. The Commission

  1. It is an offence to:
    • improperly attempt to influence the Commission concerning any matter connected with an investigation;4
    • anticipate any findings of the Commission concerning an investigation in a way that is calculated to influence the proceedings or findings;5
    • do anything in connection with an investigation that would have been contempt of court if the proceedings had occurred in a court of law;6
    • wilfully interrupt the proceedings in the place where a hearing is being conducted;7
    • act contrary to a warrant to enter and search;8
    • falsely represent oneself as an investigating officer.9
  2. The Commission may, in writing, direct a person who:
    • imports, exports, trades or manufactures any goods; or
    • in the course of whose or its business or trade, handles or has control of any goods,
    • to provide the Commission, within a specified time, with any information relating to the import, export, manufacture, supply or storage of the goods in question.

It is an offence to fail to comply with such a directive.10

  1. It is an offence to hinder, obstruct or unduly influence any person who is exercising a power or performing a duty under the Act.11

  2. The Commissioner can summon any person to give evidence, produce documents, etc. It is a criminal offence to:
    • fail to appear at the time and place specified in the summons;
    • fail to remain in attendance until excused; or
    • attend as required, but to:
      • refuse to be sworn in or to make an affirmation; or
      • fail to produce a book, document or other item as ordered.12
    • fail to answer any question fully and to the best of one’s ability; or
    • give false evidence, knowing or believing it to be false.13
  3. Any member or officer of the Commission who discloses confidential information concerning the affairs of any person, obtained whilst carrying out a function in terms of the Act (except as required by law), commits an offence.14
  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 17 of 2002 . 

  2. Section 6 read together with Section 54(1). 

  3. Section 27 read together with Section 54(1) and 54(2). 

  4. Section 54(2)(a). 

  5. Section 54(2)(b). 

  6. Section 54(2)(c). 

  7. Section 54(2)(e). 

  8. Section 54(2)(f). 

  9. Section 54(2)(g). 

  10. Section 28 read with section 54(1). 

  11. Section 51. 

  12. Section 52. 

  13. Section 53. 

  14. Section 50.