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MBABANE – It seems the country is yet to apply for a special permit that allows it to get imports of predetermined products duty-free.

As a member of the South African customs union (SACU), Eswatini has the right in the event of a disaster to apply for a special permit that allows the country to import imports of predetermined products duty-free for a certain period of time.
SACU is a customs union among five countries of Southern Africa, namely Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa and its aim is to maintain the free interchange of goods between member states.

It provides for a common external tariff and a common excise tariff to this common customs area.
Under the SACU agreement, member countries have the right to import duty-free or reduced tariffs that help alleviate famine or an epidemic (or pandemic). The COVID-19 pandemic complies with the terms of the SACU agreement.
This also applies to technical support agreements based on bilateral or multinational agreements.


However, such a step must be taken in accordance with the terms of the SACU agreement (that is, taking into account the discount conditions listed) and is then subject to a certificate issued by the Commission for International Trade Administration, which must be approved by the SACU member countries.

It was reliably gathered that Eswatini was yet to seek this relief at the time of compiling this report. Communications Officer in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade Thabile Mdluli said her office was yet to learn about the country seeking such relief.

One of the member countries, Namibia, on the other hand, is said to be taking this route.
The Namibia Trade Forum’s (NTF)trade and investment analyst, Roberth Simon, according to reports from that country, is on behalf of  the  Ministry  of  Industry and surveying the Namibian trade sectors and identifying a list  of products that when importing into Namibia should be considered for the so called ‘SACU discount’.  

According to Simon, “In accordance with the SACU agreement, it will be examined which products alleviate people’s plight  in the  event  of  the  global  COVID  19 disaster”.  

Simon directed correspondence to all importers and freight forwarders as well as ‘Team Namibia’, the Namibian Chamber of  Commerce Industry NCCI and  the  Namibian  Manufacturers Association (NMA). 

His request related to cross-border trade in intermediates, semi- finished products  for  added value  and important products to combat COVID-19.


“The purpose of this mail is for your company to provide the NTFwith a list of products that you believe can benefit  from SACU discount point 412.11,” Simon wrote.

He confirmed to  news site AZ: “Now that COVID-19 has done  its damage, even  South  Africa  does  not  have  sufficient  stocks  of medicines and high-tech items that are needed by various commercial sectors - possibly  even  certain foods and nutrients. Namibia has to find a way to get these products from the international market without subjecting the goods to the usual punitive and excise duty rates,” he said.
In addition to medical care and protective clothing, intermediates could also qualify for manufacturing purposes, which are currently in short supply within the SACU due to the COVID-19 effect. As long as it can be proven that the product is required due to COVID-19.


There is an urgent need for action, since the list still has to be submitted to the member countries and not least to the Namibian tax office: “There is no implementation date yet, but this must be done as soon as possible.

The discount was necessary due to disruptions in production, trade and logistics. Therefore, this regulation will remain in force until the economic,” reported the Namibian media.

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