HIGH COURT JUDGMENT BOOSTS LOCAL CLOTHING INDUSTRY

 30 June 2023

The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) welcomes the recent High Court (Gauteng Division, Pretoria) judgment on the labelling of imported clothing, which provides a boost to the local clothing industry and jobs.

The background to this matter of The National Consumer Council vs Scoop Clothing CC & The National Consumer Tribunal is as follows:

A trader, Scoop Clothing, imported unlabelled garments into South Africa. When the National Consumer Commission (NCC) detained these garments for not complying with Consumer Protection Act regulations, which stipulates that clothing needs to be labelled with the country of origin and care instructions, Scoop Clothing appealed to the National Consumer Tribunal. The Tribunal reversed the NCC’s decision, allowing Scoop Clothing to import the unlabelled garments and label them in South Africa.

SACTWU’s view is that the Tribunal’s decision would have been disastrous for clothing workers and the domestic clothing industry. It would have created a loophole for unscrupulous importers to import unlabelled garments and relabel and sell them as ‘Made in South Africa’. It would also have encouraged the dumping of overruns and distressed goods in South Africa at prices that would undermine legitimate retailers and manufacturers and caused environmental harm as these goods would soon find their way to landfills. 

The High Court, in a judgement delivered by Judge J Van der Westhuizen earlier this month,  found that the Tribunal erred when it overturned the NCC’s decision and has set aside the Tribunal’s decision. The Court confirmed that garments must carry a country-of-origin label when arriving at South Africa ports.

SACTWU decided to join the matter to highlight the negative effect of the Tribunal’s decision on local jobs and investment. While in the end, the judge decided that it was not even necessary for our union to join as the Tribunal had made a clear legal error, we are of the view that our representations had made an important impact in finally overturning the NCC’s decision.

SACTWU commends the NCC for pursing this matter and confirming the label of origin dispensation. It encourages industry stakeholders to continue with their work to grow local manufacturing and retail jobs, as set out in the Retail, Clothing, Textile, Footwear & Leather (R-CTFL) Master Plan. 

Issued by 

Andre Kriel

SACTWU General Secretary

For further information or comment, kindly contact SACTWU’s National Industrial Policy Officer, Etienne Vlok, on 082 448 0506