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Escalating Counterfeit Food Incidents Emerge in Gauteng



Escalating Counterfeit Food Incidents Emerge in Gauteng

Johannesburg is grappling with the detrimental impacts of expired foods and counterfeit goods, causing substantial economic losses and jeopardising livelihoods. Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA) and the SA Revenue Services are paying attention to this critical issue as reported by IOL.

TJSA underscores that the proliferation of illicit products peddled in streets, tuck shops, and various locations is draining the country’s resources. Their estimates reveal that without the surge in illegal trade, the nation’s coffers could see an additional influx of R12 billion for education, R6.5 billion for healthcare, and another R6.5 billion for community development initiatives every five months.

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Earlier this year, Independent Media exposed South Africa’s economy as haemorrhaging billions annually due to the rampant sale of counterfeit goods, including fake foods, and activities like illegal mining, bootleg alcohol, fuel, and illicit cigarettes. A report jointly released by the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (Tracit) and Business Unity South Africa highlighted the dangerous impact of illicit trade on the economy.

Esteban Giudici, a senior policy adviser at Tracit, emphasised that corruption, which aids the illicit trade, remains a formidable challenge and is insufficiently addressed. This sentiment was echoed by Minister of Police Bheki Cele, who spearheaded Operation Shanela, targeting counterfeit products within Johannesburg’s CBD.


Cele emphasised the country’s struggle against counterfeit goods and the presence of illegal foreign nationals renting business spaces to vend counterfeit and expired food items, among other products, to locals.

Recent actions by the South African Police Service (SAPS) saw raids on illegally occupied structures in the inner city. A subsequent manhunt targeted individuals leasing buildings within Johannesburg’s CBD for the sale of counterfeit goods. Multiple arrests were made during these operations, unearthing fake IDs, passports, and other counterfeit items.

The complexity arises from legal building ownership but leasing to undocumented residents engaging in illicit activities. Operation Shanela’s launch yielded the confiscation of various goods, including skin-lightening creams and sexual performance enhancement pills.

Collaboration between the Police Ministry, Home Affairs, and Labour Department underscored the seriousness of the issue.

Cele highlighted the next phase – identifying individuals who lease buildings to those vending counterfeit goods. He emphasised that these operations were part of a broader crackdown on illicit activities in hotspots such as Johannesburg’s CBD.


Recent police activities also unearthed significant counterfeit goods and illicit cigarettes, amounting to over R1 million. In a separate incident, police in Westenburg, Polokwane, discovered a prevalence of illegal immigrants, many of whom were selling expired products. Tuck shops owned by Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals were reported to commonly stock expired items.

Reports indicated that inadequate food inspectors are available to monitor the multitude of tuck shops selling counterfeit and expired goods. Cele expressed his astonishment at South African-owned shops being leased to illegal immigrants for the sale of fake and expired products.

His contention was that these shops, owned by South Africans, should be made available to those who can utilise them legitimately. The imperative is to address the issue holistically, given its potential to impact not just the present but also the future fabric of society.

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Interception of 67 Pakistani Nationals at OR Tambo Airport


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Photo: Facebook / @IOL News

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