Seized goods donated to flood victims

Thursday, November 3, 2022

An initiative by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) to donate tons of seized clothing, blankets and footwear to flood victims in KwaZulu-Natal has entered its second phase.

Dubbed Project Sizani (“we all help), the initiative is backed by both business and labour.

Project Sizani took shape after the declaration of a state of disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in response to the floods in KZN in April this year. Over 400 people lost their lives, with an estimated 8 500 houses destroyed.

Some parts of the Eastern Cape, North West and Free State provinces also experienced devastation due to the floods.

“While the project is aimed at minimising the material impact of the affected people, it is also intended to restore dignity to those who were left almost naked by the disaster.

“Humanity is what drives this gesture more than anything else,” said Patrick Moeng, an Executive of the Focused Investigative Audit Unit: Syndicated Tax and Customs Crime Division at SARS, and leader of Project Sizani.

The initiative involves the distribution of some of the millions of tons of goods from the clothing, textile, footwear and leather industries (CTFL) that have been seized by SARS since 2018.

These items would otherwise have been destroyed in accordance with the Customs Act, Act 91 of 1964, as well as a 2009 and 2020 NEDLAC agreement stipulating that seized goods must be destroyed so as to avoid disruption to the South African market.

During the first phase, which started in June this year, the donation of blankets commenced in KZN, where hundreds of flood survivors are still living in community halls.

The second phase comprises the donation of clothing and footwear to flood victims identified in the various district municipalities of the KZN, Eastern Cape and North West provinces.

A Governance Task Team, which comprises members from SARS, the dtic, organised labour and the CTFL industry, is responsible for the execution of the project. Other role players in the execution of the project are the National Disaster Management Committee, the Department of Social Development, and the Offices of the various Premiers in the impacted provinces.

To date, more than 28 000 blankets have been delivered to specific individuals at approximately 174 sites in KwaZulu-Natal.

The KZN phase 1 (blanket distribution) pilot paved the way for the rollout of the second phase of the project. This is an even more intricate and tightly controlled process, as the footwear and clothing items are wrapped in individual packages for specific individuals in specific shelters before they are handed over for distribution.

This second phase of the project is currently underway in KZN after a pilot at the two smaller shelters in Inanda and one in La Mercy offered a chance to develop and refine the process even further.

According to Moeng, 25 698 items of clothing have so far been donated to the first 31 of 74 sites in KZN.

The packing, sorting and distribution to shelters continues to take place, as more shipments of seized clothing arrive from Gauteng, courtesy of many shipping lines that extended their hand of goodwill to assist in transporting the containers of seized items to different parts of the country.

The project is earmarked to be concluded in KZN at the end of November 2022, with the North West and Easter Cape to follow. –