Labeling and Marking Requirements

A Hot Tip about Law and Compliance in South Africa

Last updated: 25 Feb 2011

Labeling and Marking Requirements


South Africa has a well-developed regulatory standards regime that oversees the labeling and marking requirements.


The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS, an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, or DTI) and its accredited divisions and agents, is the national standards, homologation and accreditation authority. SABS oversees labeling and marking in the following categories:


• Chemicals

• Electro-technical

• Food and Health

• Mechanical and Materials

• Mining and Minerals

• Services

• Transportation.



A detailed listing of the relevant technical specifications by product is given at (see Commercial Services).



SABS is responsible for the issuing of LOA’s (Letter of Authorities), i.e., the control documentation on the importation of several items where certain standards must be met. Imports into South Africa must comply with the specifications for a given product or the relevant application. If an imported product does not bear a quality or standards specification marking, the importer will finally be liable for the quality of the product.


Established importers will therefore want to divest themselves of this liability by ensuring the product under discussion complies with the pertinent specifications and bears the relevant standards marking.


The marking and labeling often revolve around the categories listed above to ensure consumer and environmental protection. Often the importer will insist that the foreign manufacturer affix these ex-works. Only in exceptional cases will the importer, wholesaler or retailer at the bulk break stage be prepared to affix these labels and markings. Labeling and marking requirements pertain mainly to textiles, shoes and bags, where a permanent label identifying the manufacturer and country of origin must be displayed. This process is administered by ITAC.


It is common practice for retailers to insist that imported technical goods carry safety instructions or other user guides in the English language. Pictures and/or diagrams often supplement English user instructions. While liability laws and conventions in South Africa are not as onerous as in the United States, the retailer, wholesaler and importer are all desirous to reduce their liability to a minimum. South African legal practice follows the precepts of English Commercial Law, as well as Roman Dutch civil law. It is also common for the user to indicate details of the official South African service agent for the product, and, less often, the importer of the product. This user instruction will also indicate the information about the South African warranty. Prohibited and Restricted Imports Return to top



The importation of the following goods into South Africa is prohibited:



  • Narcotic and habit-forming drugs in any form;
  • Fully automatic, military and unnumbered weapons, explosives and fireworks;
  • Poison and other toxic substances;
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2 kilograms per 1,000;
  • Goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act, (for example, counterfeit goods);
  • Unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright; and
  • Prison-made and penitentiary-made goods.



Each year, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) publishes a list of goods requiring import permits in an annual Import Control Program, which covers imports from any country. The Directorate of Import and Export Control of the DTI administers the issuance of permits, though for some imports, additional and prior authorization may be required from other departments.



By notice in the Government Gazette, the Minister of Trade and Industry may prescribe that goods of a specified class or kind may not be imported into South Africa, except under the authority of, and in accordance with, the conditions stated in a permit issued by ITAC. The main categories of controlled imports are as follows:



  • Used goods: ITAC may grant import permits on used goods or substitutes if not manufactured domestically, thus creating a de facto ban on most used goods.
  • While designed to protect the domestic manufacture of clothing, motor vehicles, machinery, and plastics, these restrictions limit imports of a variety of low-cost used goods from the United States and Europe;
  • Waste, scrap, ashes, and residues: The objective of import controls on these goods is to protect human health and the environment under the Basel Convention;
  • Other harmful substances: Imports of substances such as ozone-depleting chemicals under the Montreal Convention and chemicals used in illegal drug manufacturing under the 1988 United Nations Convention are controlled for environmental, health, and social reasons; and
  • Goods subject to quality specifications: This restriction permits the monitoring of manufacturing specifications that enhance vehicle safety (such as in the case of tires) or protect human life.



A phytosanitary certificate is required for the importation of lard, bacon, ham, hides and skins, animal hair and bristles, and honey products. These certificates are issued by the Department of Agriculture. Other products that require import permits include fish and fish products, residues, petroleum products, firearms and ammunition, gambling equipment, and radioactive chemical elements.



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Posted: 06 January 2010, last updated 25 February 2011

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