A case study of the Customs Administrative Penalty Provision as contained in the Customs & Excise Act, No.91 of 1964 of South Africa, and a comparison of the South African regime with selected foreign customs penalty regime

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The world of international trade has evolved over the centuries and, with this process of evolution, unique challenges have emerged over time. International trade, in essence, involves the movement of goods and services across borders; it is conducted mainly by private firms rather than governments. The suggested role of government is to create an environment that allows for efficient international trade. Such an environment is manifested in the provision of an adequate physical infrastructure and a transparent regulatory environment. Today, an organisation such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose members direct the vast bulk of international trade, plays an active role in advancing the agenda of a rules-based international trade regime. This same organization also provides, on an ongoing basis, initiatives directed to improving the facilitation of trade internationally. Examples of trade facilitation initiatives are the recent Bali-Agreement (The Trade Facilitation Agreement, 2013), signed by WTO members in 2013 in Bali, and the Revised Kyoto Convention of the World Customs Organization (WCO) which has, as its objective, the elimination of barriers to efficient international trade. This dissertation focuses on customs penalty regime as utilised by South Africa. The South African regime is compared with certain foreign and international customs penalty regimes (in this case, Canada, the United States of America and the European Union). The study further explores the appeal system available to transgressors of these regimes. The penalty - and appeal regimes is further analysed against recommendations and prescripts in international agreements to which these countries are parties, specifically the WTO Bali Agreement and the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention. A practical and transparent customs penalty regime will obviously support the agenda to improve trade facilitation, a situation that is desired by traders throughout the globe.