By Kotie Geldenhuys
Photos courtesy of SARS
Buying a vehicle is one of the biggest, most expensive and most important purchases many consumers will ever make. This is a very daunting experience and therefore it is important that potential buyers take the time to do their homework before making the purchase. This can save the buyer a lot of inconvenience and money. Consumers in the market for second-hand vehicles should be on high alert for unscrupulous sellers who are ready to pounce on their hard-earned cash and take them for a ride by selling an illegally imported vehicle at a “good” price.
The saying goes: when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many gullible motorists have learned this lesson the hard way after buying cheap second-hand vehicles, only to have them confiscated because they have been illegally imported and fraudulently registered. One such a person was a pensioner from Komga who lost her life savings when she bought a 2017 Volkswagen Touran in February 2018 for R120 000, a vehicle with a price tag of around R290 000 at that stage. Her daughter introduced her to the vehicle dealer, a Congolese national, who sold the vehicle to her. She said: "I used my entire savings and money I inherited from the passing of my daughter to purchase the vehicle." In October 2018, two police officials confiscated the vehicle, informing her that it had been fraudulently registered. She called the vehicle dealer, but he denied that the vehicle was fraudulently registered and promised her that she would get her vehicle back. As can be expected, she has not heard anything from him ever since and he ignored her calls. "I have now resorted to using taxis and my grandchildren are suffering due to this," the pensioner said (Zuzile, 2019)
The number of complaints about illegal vehicles being sold in South Africa has increased substantially since 2018. Mr Lee Dutton, the Executive Director of International Vehicle Identification Desk (IVID) Southern Africa said they have recorded a four-fold rise in complaints regarding attempts that were made to sell illegally-imported vehicles in South Africa. He stated that although the IVID does not possess the comprehensive statistics for vehicles that were confiscated in 2019, the organisation is aware of more than 1000 verified seizures. Naamsa, the body representing local vehicle manufacturers and importers, claims that almost 300 000 of the 12.7 million vehicles on our roads are illegal imports (Droppa, 2020).
Import of used vehicles into South Africa
The importation of used vehicles into South Africa is prohibited under the International Trade Administration Act 71 of 2002 to protect the local motor vehicle manufacturing industry’s local manufacturing, which contributes more than 7% to the gross domestic product (GDP) and creates employment for thousands (Times Live, 2020). Mr Jakkie Olivier, the CEO of the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) explained that they have seen cases in other countries where the import of foreign vehicles has decimated the local market (Business Leadership South Africa, 2020). There are however, exceptional cases where permits will be issued to import a second-hand vehicle into the country. These cases include:
- Immigrants with permanent residence may bring vehicles registered in their names into the country;
- South African residents returning to South Africa with vehicles registered in their names; and
- other vehicles that may be imported include racing cars, vintage passenger vehicles, specially designed vehicles and inherited vehicles.
The whole process is handled by the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) and the importer has to pay customs duty, calculated as a percentage of the value of the vehicle(s) to SARS (Republic of South Africa, Nd). Importers must remember that ITAC will never issue permits for the import of second-hand vehicles for use on South African roads.