Dolphin Bay welcomes the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications’ (NRCS) recent raids on illegal timber treatment operations in South Africa.
However, only time will tell whether the organisation should be congratulated on really cracking down on the huge problem, following years of frustration with their performance.
The NRCS reported that inspections were conducted on 34 suspected counterfeit operations from June 21 to 25, mainly in areas around Pietermaritzburg and at least six other areas in KwaZulu-Natal. The organisation cited this as a major breakthrough, with 24 illegal treated timber distributors identified, R1 million worth of products confiscated, and directives issued.
In the past, formal timber treatment businesses have reported growing concern and frustration about the regulator’s lacklustre performance in tackling the illegal timber treatment activity, as it grew unchecked across the country.
However, in a recent newsletter, the South African Wood Preservers Association thanked the NRCS for “finally taking definitive action, even though it was long overdue”.
Dolphin Bay believes the regulator deserved some credit for these raids, but much more remains to be done. “Are we going to see more raids, and more active policing of the industry? Once we see the trend reversing, then we will congratulate the NRCS,” said Bertus.
“If the problem had been addressed much earlier, it would have been solved much more quickly, required less effort and would have limited the damage to the industry. The problem now is that a culture of lawlessness has been allowed to grow. Breaking that will require significant and ongoing policing.”
One Dolphin Bay customer was forced to close his plant because his CCA was aggressively and consistently stolen.
In a response to questions from the Dolphin Bay Brief, NRCS spokesperson Mirriam Moswaane said the organisation “will continue to apply sanctions where non-compliances are identified, criminal cases will be opened, and prosecution pursued.”
When asked when we can expect more raids, she did not give specifics. However, SAWPA reported that the NRCS confirmed further raids are planned for the third and fourth quarters of 2021.
Mirriam added that KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga are currently the provinces facing the biggest threat from these criminal enterprises.
Bruce Breedt, Executive Director of SAWPA, was fairly upbeat about the latest raids and told us: “We trust that this will be the start of an era that sees the NRCS fulfilling their mandate, i.e., clamping down on illegal treaters and traders.”
He explained that the first raids, although only focused on specific areas, were very successful and would hopefully have sent out a message to other illegal timber treaters and traders in other parts of KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces.
Time would tell whether this was too optimistic, but the association remained hopeful because the Forest Master Plan provided for action, he added.
“Illegal timber treatment is not new and has always been there in regions such as KZN, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. The problem however escalated and got out of control when the regulations that preceded the NRCS were repealed, and the mandate given to the NRCS in 2009. Lack of regulation since then has seen a minor irritation grow into a big problem.”
One Dolphin Bay customer was forced to close his plant because his CCA was aggressively and consistently stolen, resulting in job losses.
“This is clearly not the South Africa we are trying to build – especially given our extremely high unemployment figure,” said Bertus. “We should jealously protect our businesses and people who bring employment and hope, where there was none before.
“Any illegal activity which subtracts from this vision should see perpetrators arrested and prosecuted urgently. We and the industry look forward to seeing further action by the NRCS.”