They are derogatorily called “fong kongs” and they are just about in every country in the world, thanks mostly to China.
Counterfeit brands of items such as Converse, Dickies, Mille, Polo and other established brands are flooding markets around the world.
Botswana has no law to stop the importation of such items.
The presence of ‘’Fong Kongs” is already threatening the presence of the big brands stretching from the dusty streets of Gaborone to big shopping centres in Johannesburg.
Rae James, Group Legal Advisor of a South African company, LA Group Ltd, revealed in an interview that their company has tried in vain to convince Botswana to raid and seize counterfeit in the country.
The Minister of Trade and Industry explained that Botswana is reluctant to raid and seize counterfeits due to the absence of law to deal with counterfeits.
“We have a zero tolerance approach to counterfeiting, across all our brands in the Group. This includes Converse, Dickies, Mille and Polo. Counterfeiting not only affects our business but destroys the integrity of brands. It is often related to organised crime and is part of a wider criminal network and we urge the public not to support counterfeit products,” she said, adding that in the past they have tried to approach local authorities in Botswana to try and raid and seize the fake brands.
She emphasized that the market in counterfeits is not limited to South Africa only as evidenced by their effort in arranging seizure operations in neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Mozambique and Botswana.
James also noted that they rely on the cooperation of the local authorities in these countries whenever they want to undertake such operations.
She is adamant that increasing awareness around counterfeit goods and how to identify them is vital though some countries have no such laws.
“The importers are continually adapting to the anti-counterfeiting measures and we and the authorities have to be pro-active, vigilant and committed to fighting counterfeit products, no matter which product or brand. And consumers have to be made aware that buying counterfeit product may be cheap but the cost in terms of lost revenue and supporting organised crime is high,” she added.
She noted that fighting counterfeit is a long term commitment because it is unlikely that counterfeit products will stop coming into the market.
James was of the view that there is a need to pursue both criminal and civil remedies to those involved in counterfeit goods.
She explained that they have a two-part strategy ÔÇô working with Customs who seize goods at border points and identifying counterfeit products in the market ourselves.
“Obviously, this has a significant cost for the company but we are committed to fighting counterfeit products and to ensure that it does not impact on our brands and on our authorised retailers. But it is vital to get the message out that we do not tolerate counterfeit. And we are continually working on this through zero tolerance and regular media campaigns, such as the counterfeit adverts we recently placed in the major newspapers. We are not prepared to enter into negotiations on seized goods and would not trade with any customers who are found to be in possession of counterfeit products,” she stated.
Botswana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Dorcus Malesu, also admits that the excise to raid and seize the counterfeit products is a difficult task due to the absence of a law on counterfeits.
“As you are aware, Botswana has no such law so we are constrained. Even South Africa is trying to formulate such a law. We will be happy to take that route too to address the problem,” said Malesu.
One of the managers of Mafia Soul Clothing noted that their business is not threatened by the presence of counterfeits in the market. Lesedi Boikanyo said that they will continue to dominate though Chinese shops are selling counterfeits brands.
“They are people who actually buy cheap counterfeits brands and those who prefer to buy genuine brands from Mafia Soul,” said Boikanyo.