Here is the mad way the South African government works – in an effort to protect local businesses, it places import duties on certain overseas products. This sounds like reasonable, especially when places like China can mass produce goods for a cup of rice, and said goods can land in South Africa for a fraction of the price South African businesses can manage it. So, make these companies pay an import duty and it’s fair game.
Some of the most protected businesses are those producing material, particularly clothing items like shirts and leatherwear. China will make a billion shirts and have them here faster than a South African company can boil a pot of Tastic, so they need the help. Therefore, all clothing items landing on our shores are given an import duty of 25%.
So far all is well, but here is where we come to the tricky part – what defines clothing?
Shirts? Shoes? Boots? Jackets? Hats? And helmets? Do motorcycle crash helmets fall under the category of imported clothing that is worthy of the protective 25% import duty, even if there are no local helmet manufacturers to protect?
According to the government, yes – motorcycle helmets do fall under imported clothing and a duty should be charged. The reason for this is because trying to classify an item like motorcycles crash helmets as anything else will require a lot of work, and government officials don’t like doing that. It’s far easier to lump it all into one category and be done with it.
While government officials go for lunch and then take the rest of the day off, the motorcycling public is having to fork out a large chunk of cash in order to both protect their heads and comply with the helmet law made by the same government that makes complying with the helmet law damn expensive. Especially for commercial motorcyclists, such as delivery riders, that have seen their numbers increase since the COVID pandemic started.
Thankfully, all that is to change thanks to an application by the Association of Motorcycle Importers and Distributors (AMID) to change the tariff code of motorcycle helmets so that they are no longer lumped in with T-shirts and socks from China. It’s taken them four years but finally, the government has accepted, meaning the 25% import tax on motorcycle helmets will be reduced to zero.
The removal of the duty is good news, as Arnold Olivier, the National Director of AMID, points out: “Although it may take some time for helmet stock presently in the country to find its way off the shelves, Importers have already indicated that the reduction in duties will positively affect the costs of helmets and the benefit of such will be passed on to consumers. AMID is confident that this will make the purchase of a new helmet more affordable and encourages riders, whether it be for commercial or recreational purposes, to no longer use helmets that are past their useful life span.”
It should be noted that there are more charges thrown at importers after the helmets arrive – transport, warehousing, marketing, secretaries, etc, so the removal of the 25% import duty will not result in a 25% reduction in the retail of prices of helmets, but every little bit helps.