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15 February 2001
AMC & Gray Goods

Cholera everywhere with Foot-in-Mouth still hounding our various Health Departments. The only difference now is that it's a country-wide problem.

Instead the normal moaning and bi***ing about our local government, I'd like to change the focus on unscrupulous South African businessmen whom are out to make money instead of helping to build our country up.

We've had this in the past and it was dealt with effectively by the old National Party government, now it's back with a vengeance. I am referring to gray marketeers. People who bring in goods that is downright dangerous for general consumption and/or use. Not to mention the damage that's being done to brandnames and the general confidence in the product.
This obviously covers a wide range of items. From generic drugs to t-shirts to vehicles. Dunno if any of my fellow South Africans ever noticed the quality of certain products dropping at an alarming rate i.e. electric globes. It is ridiculous that good brandname globes are so hard to find.

Seems that the world think because we are a Third World country, anything goes. The cheaper it is to manufacture (in other words, the crappier the goods), the easier it is to sell it in South Africa. And boy, do they sell! We've seen battery radios and other appliances selling for a reasonable price, without the technical backup and know-how. It breaks, you replace - there's no fixing these things. We also have the so-called "parallel importers". Had a run-in with one chain that calls themselves "Hi-Fi Corporation". They import ranges (models) that the official agents don't bring in. And due to the obvious lack of infrastructure to maintain these units, they can sell it for a bit cheaper than the official product, but still with a very healthy profit margin.

The real worrying part comes to inferior products that's live-threatening. Here I'm referring specifically to vehicles. A company called Afinta Motor Corporation (AMC) has been treading on very unstable ground lately. It's been discovered by our local Bereau of Standards that these vehicles are just not safe. Brakes, steering mechanisms and lights were just some of the factors highlighted during testing.
The procedure is as such that these items must be submitted to the SABS for testing and approval before being marketed in South Africa. AMC was found to be dangerous though still permitted to sell their vehicles obviously on the grounds that the failures would be attended to and fixed. This hasn't happened. Requests were put to the Minister of Transport to stop the distribution of AMC products and to even revoke road permits for the current vehicles (already licensed), to no avail.

Eventually now it seems something is being done about this whole saga. One lot is trying to get the job done, while the others adopt a "wait-see" policy without ever really getting involved. AMC went as far as getting a court-order to prevent the SABS from releasing it's report, so the customer doesn't have a clue and sales can continue. The worst is that these same guys knew (after the SABS findings) exactly what the issues were, but that's going to cost money now, ain't it?
AMC also tendered for the new taxi (minibus) contract. Instead of the normal twelve seaters government now wants to force the taxi industry into using new "busses" as in 18 to 24 seaters. That's a story by itself that caused a major upset amongst taxi operators and drivers at the time of the announcement. Purely because the drivers now have to go for a different class license to operate the new vehicles. Too many fake licenses going around, that's what I say!