South Africa - Country Commercial Guide
Prohibited and Restricted Imports
Last published date:


The importation of the following goods into South Africa is prohibited:

  • Narcotic and habit-forming drugs in any form
  • Fully automatic, military, and unnumbered weapons, explosives, and fireworks
  • Poison and other toxic substances
  • Cigarettes with a mass of more than 2 kilograms per 1,000
  • Goods to which a trade description or trademark is applied in contravention of any Act (for example, counterfeit goods)
  • Unlawful reproductions of any works subject to copyright
  • Prison-made and penitentiary-made goods

Permits Each year, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the DTIC) publishes a list of goods requiring import permits in an annual Import Control Program, which covers imports from any country. The Directorate of Import and Export Control of the DTIC administers the issuance of permits, though, for some imports, the DTIC may require additional and prior authorization from other departments.  By notice in the Government Gazette, the Minister of Trade and Industry may prescribe that goods of a specified class or kind may not be imported into South Africa, except under the authority of, and in accordance with, the conditions stated in a permit issued by ITAC.

Categories The main categories of controlled imports are as follows:

Used goods:  ITAC may grant import permits on used goods or substitutes if not manufactured domestically, thus creating a de facto ban on most used goods.  While designed to protect the domestic manufacture of clothing, motor vehicles, machinery, and plastics, these restrictions limit imports of a variety of low-cost used goods from the United States and Europe. Waste, scrap, ashes, and residues:  the objective of import controls on these goods is to protect human health and the environment under the Basel Convention. 

Other harmful substances: The South African Government controls the imports of substances such as ozone-depleting chemicals, under the Montreal Convention and chemicals used in illegal drug manufacturing, under the 1988 United Nations Convention. Goods subject to quality specifications:  this restriction permits the monitoring of manufacturing specifications that enhance vehicle safety (such as in the case of tires) or protect human life.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) requires and issues sanitary-phytosanitary certificates for the importation of poultry, beef, pork (including lard), hides and skins, animal hair and bristles, and honey products.  Other products that require import permits include fish and fish products, residues, petroleum products, firearms and ammunition, gambling equipment, and radioactive chemical elements.