South Africa’s Competition Commission was investigating 11 firms for inflating prices and taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel revealed during a briefing of economic cluster ministers on Tuesday.
“The firms have been found to be selling products like face masks, hand sanitizers and other products at high prices and abusing the situation,” he said.
He said if found to have contravened the laws, the companies could face prosecution and a fine of up to 10 percent of their annual turnover.
Patel said the number of firms under investigation could increase.
The department last week published a list of 22 products including rice, milk, canned vegetables, hygiene products and medical supplies which would be monitored to ensure there were no unjustified price hikes.
Patel said that the government would ensure that food security was “prioritized” even during the 21-day lockdown.
Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza said that “the department has set aside a package of R1.2 billion (68.1 million U.S. dollars) to address the effects of the coronavirus and ensure sustainable food production.”
“We are self sufficient. There’s no need for panic buying,” she said.
Patel added that during this period, South Africa would continue trading with other countries especially those within the region.
“We will take all steps to keep open all with neighbors to ensure that we have food supply across the region and we come through this together. The movements of goods with our neighbors will not be affected,” Patel added. Enditem