Cosatu, state in a spat over imports

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

The Trade and Industry department said yesterday it was opposed to any targeted boycott of unsafe products from China because South Africa had good economic and political relations with that country.

Any problems emanating from poor standards of Chinese products coming into the country will be raised with the Chinese government through proper bilateral channels.

This was the view of DTI spokesman Vukani Mde in response to a call by Cosatu in the Western Cape for the boycott of Chinese products.

Cosatu's regional secretary Tony Ehrenreich said while unsafe and hazardous materials found their way into the country, China was a good example of unsafe products that must be avoided.

Mde acknowledged that there were plenty of products, including food products and pork from overseas countries coming into the country which often failed to meet standard tests.

"We need to protect our consumers by jacking up our safety checks. Products from all countries have to be subjected to our rigorous standards tests of safety and health. However, we will not support any targeted boycott of any country's products. We have good and open relations with China and if we have any problem with their products, we will take it up with them," said Mde.

"These products are dangerous and pose a health risk to communities," counteredEhrenreich.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, he cited toothpaste and toys that were found to be health hazards. He also made mention of a poisonous fertiliser from China that contaminated pineapple and posed danger to the health of workers at a farm in Limpopo.

"These products are not properly tested back home. We know of TV sets that exploded and machine tools that were not up to standard.

"We want a boycott of all unsafe products no matter where they come from, but China is our main target," said Ehrenreich.

He urged workers to insist that their companies don't buy Chinese machinery or cars unless they were fully compliant with guidelines set by the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) as the "low-cost sub-standard machinery" posed a risk to workers.

SABS spokesman Erno Botes said the body was aware of sub-standard products that came into the country undetected.

"We try to take these products off the shelves to prevent their sale, but the problem is that we are not always aware of where they are.

"However, there are products that require compulsory testing to ensure they meet safety standards. These are automotive and electrical equipment and cement.

"These products are subject to compulsory testing because they pose the highest risk to the lives of people," Botes said.

Recently SABS issued a warning to consumers about non-compliant electrical products, saying it would not allow these to be sold in the country as they were unsafe.

Alan Cohen, SABS's technical specialist said products identified as unsafe included stoves, rice cookers, electrical scales, hair clippers, steam irons, adaptors, plugs, appliance switches and flexible cords and extension cords. Cohen said the intention was to remove all these products from the market within three months, as from July.

Botes said SABS had despatched inspectors to visit suppliers to prevent the sale of unsafe products.

He said suppliers who import products have to obtain a letter of authority granted after a product had been tested by the SABS.

Another option would be for the importers to produce a certificate from a credible and approved certification body from the affected country.