South Africa needs to stand up and fight the problem of counterfeit goods as it has the potential to destroy the economy and lead to unemployment in the country, Paul Ramara, a partner at Spoor & Fisher, has warned.

Ramara said this week that the counterfeited goods were no longer limited to one industry, such as the clothing industry, but had now spread to include a number of sectors.

Counterfeiting was once viewed by many as a problem limited to purveyors of highend luxury goods, but today counterfeiting has become a multibillion – and criminal activity that affects almost every industry.

“Any recognisable brand is at risk of being counterfeited, from clothing and music to pharmaceuticals and automotive parts.

“In automotive, there are no parts that are immune as counterfeited parts tend to be the most frequently replaced parts,” he said.

The industry estimates that thousands of counterfeit auto parts flow into the country every year. Only a fraction of them are ever detected by customs and even less now in the age of e-commerce.

As recently as this week the police said three men were arrested in the north of Pretoria after they were found in possession of a substantial amount of suspected counterfeit bank notes resembling US dollars and South African rand.

However, the police did not disclose the value of the counterfeited banknotes.

Lukhanyo Vapi, an applications engineer at Schaeffler, said this was a widespread problem in South Africa at the moment and the culprits were targeting big cities like Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

“They find it easier to gain access for their counterfeit goods in Cape Town and Durban because of the access to the harbour of the cities,” Vapi said.

Vapi said in Durban recently a raid was conducted in which counterfeited goods valued at R141 000 were confiscated by the authorities.

“We might have been able to catch one operation, but we know there are many illegal activities out there,” he said.

Durban holds significance as the port city that’s a popular entry point for goods intended for sale in southern Africa.

Ramara said the problem lay in the fact for 2000 containers that land in Durban, only 5 percent are searched.

Vapi also said earlier this year that counterfeit bearings worth R2.3 million were seized in Johannesburg and then destroyed.

Ramara added that counterfeits always had a market because they were cheaper than the original brands.

This article was first published in The Sunday Independent Business Report by Sandile Mchunu.