JOHANNESBURG – It comes as no surprise that at a time when the country finds itself at its most vulnerable, there will be companies and individuals that will take the opportunity to profiteer for their own gain and take advantage of the current state of national disaster, finding ways of exploiting consumers by selling Covid-19 related items and passing them off as locally made and/or safe to use against the spread of the pandemic.
These items include sanitisers and masks, which are currently in high demand as people seek to protect themselves, their families and employees against the virus. Misleading claims around the provenance and efficacy of masks and sanitisers play into the fears of South Africans, as they go in search, often online, for these items. If the masks and sanitisers they purchase do not meet minimum required standards, they are rendered entirely useless in our fight to flatten the curve and the spread of the coronavirus and pose a significant health risk to users and others with whom they come into contact.
Seeing the inherent danger posed by these fake items that are flooding our markets and in order to provide a safe and secure online source of masks, Proudly South African recently launched its Covid-19 mask portal. The purpose of the portal is two-fold. In addition to protecting consumers and providing assurances around the authenticity of masks manufactured locally and which should also be compliant with approved guidelines issued by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the portal is also a means of safeguarding jobs in the clothing and textile sector.
The clothing, textiles, footwear and leather sector is one that has been especially hard hit in recent years, losing thousands of jobs as many local companies have folded, as they were unable to compete with cheap imports from around the world. At a time when it was managing to claw back some of those lost jobs, the coronavirus hit, setting them back once again.
However, in a show of resourcefulness for which South Africans are justly renowned, companies are now re-purposing machinery and switching product lines to meet the demand for cloth facemasks.
The portal lists manufacturers who have gone through the clothing manufacturers’ bargaining council and Proudly SA approval processes, and lists information regarding location, production capacity, mask specifications and prices. The portal caters mainly for companies producing a significant number of masks who can meet bulk demand.
For smaller operations, clothes designers and small, medium, and micro enterprises who are also finding ways to retain staff and keep trading through the design and manufacture of face masks, the Proudly SA online e-commerce platform www.rsamade.co.za provides an outlet for masks in smaller quantities for consumers to order. In addition, the site carries a number of sanitiser products that are locally manufactured.
Proudly South African is striving at this time to assist its members and broader local manufacturing sector by providing access to market opportunities. At the same time, we are urging the general public to be aware of the imperative, now more than ever before, to support local and assist in retaining precious jobs and in putting our economy back on its feet.
We must not let ourselves be hoodwinked by companies claiming to be local when they are not, or those claiming that their products are suitable for our ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, when they are not.
Buy local to retain and create jobs.
Proudly South African reminds anyone that is trading in fake items that the practice carries a penalty fine of R1 million, or 10 percent, of the annual turnover of the company. Any such cases can be reported to the National Consumer Commission on 0800 014 880 or via the website www.thencc.gov.za
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.