Restricted and prohibited imports and exports

Restricted and prohibited imports and exports

To promote fair trade and protect South African citizens’ health and safety, the South African government regulates certain items for import and export. These regulations can take the form of prohibitions or restrictions, depending on the nature of the product. Some products may also be regulated for import purposes, but not for export purposes (or vice versa).

Prohibited goods

Prohibited goods are not allowed to be imported to and/or exported from South Africa for any reason.

Examples of prohibited goods for import include:

  • Narcotics and habit-forming drugs
  • Poisons and toxic substances
  • Certain types of firearms, military weapons
  • Certain types of explosives and fireworks
  • Cigarettes (over a specific mass)
  • Counterfeit goods
  • Illegal reproductions of copyrighted works
  • Goods manufactured in prisons
  • Second-hand clothing

Note: If a good is prohibited, that prohibition applies regardless of how it is brought into or taken out of the country. Whether a trader carries the goods in their hand luggage, or packages and transports them via sea, road, rail, air or post, it remains illegal.

Restricted goods

Restricted goods may only be imported to, or exported from South Africa under specific circumstances and if certain conditions are met. Importers and exporters usually require a permit, certification or letter from a relevant government department or institution.

The reason the government regulates these goods is to control quality and quantity. For example, to protect South African citizens’ health, livestock, animal hair, and honey imports require a sanitary-phytosanitary certificate.. Gambling equipment imports are regulated to protect social health, and used goods not manufactured in South Africa are regulated for import to protect local industries.

Second-hand goods: To import second-hand or used goods (including refurbished goods), the importer must apply for an import permit. The only exception to this rule is if the importer can prove that the goods are genuinely personal effects (for example, personal household possessions brought into the country when immigrating).

For quality control purposes, institutions such as the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) also have to sample and test certain products for safety before the importer can obtain an import permit.

Customs regularly publishes a comprehensive list of restricted and prohibited imports and exports known as the Consolidated List of Prohibited and Restricted Imports and Exports. For ease of reference, the list categorises goods according to universal HS Tariff codes as set out in the Tariff Book.

Figure 1 below shows an excerpt from the above mentioned list.

Excerpt from the Consolidated List of Prohibited and Restricted Imports and Exports

Figure 1: Excerpt from the Consolidated List of Prohibited and Restricted Imports and Exports

  1. Heading/subheading & CD: This is the product’s HS code or tariff code.
  2. Description of goods: The description of the goods from the tariff book.
  3. Prohibition or restriction: Regulatory body/authority that controls import and/or export of the goods.
  4. Authority: The section of the Act that gives the above mentioned authority control.
  5. Action Required (detain for): The authority to be notified when the import or export is at Customs.
  6. Document requirement: Documents, permits and information that Customs needs to check in order to clear the goods.

If exporters and importers do not obtain the correct permits, Customs will not allow the regulated goods to enter or exit the country. This may mean unnecessary delays and lost business, as well as additional costs to the trader (such as storage fees for Customs to detain the goods). For this reason, traders must make sure that they are aware of the regulations and relevant documentation that apply to their goods before arranging for Customs clearance.

For assistance with permits and more information on restricted and prohibited imports and exports, call 0861 0 TRADE (87233) or visit our website.