It comes as no surprise that at a time when the country finds itself at its most vulnerable, there are companies and individuals who will use the opportunity to profiteer by passing off items as locally made and/or safe to use against the spread of the pandemic.
These items include sanitisers and masks, which are in high demand as people seek to protect themselves, their families and employees against the virus.
If the masks and sanitisers they purchase do not meet minimum required standards, they are rendered useless in our fight to flatten the curve 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 twofold. 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, textile, footwear and leather sector has been particularly hard hit in recent years, losing thousands of jobs with many local companies folding, as they were unable to compete with cheap imports from across 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, companies are re-purposing machinery and switching product lines to meet the demand for cloth face masks.
The portal lists manufacturers that 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 that can meet bulk demand.
For smaller operations, clothes designers and small, medium, and micro enterprises that 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 manufactured locally.
Proudly South African is striving to assist its members and the broader local manufacturing sector by providing access to market opportunities. At the same time, we are urging the public to be aware of the imperative to support local firms and assist in retaining jobs and putting the 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 fight against the pandemic, when they are not.
Proudly SA reminds anyone who is trading in fake items that the practice carries a fine of R1 million or 10 percent of their annual turnover. Cases can be reported to the National Consumer Commission on 0800014880 or via www.thencc.gov.za.
Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.
By Eustace Mashimbye