'We have declared war on counterfeit goods,' Bheki Cele tells crime conference
Police minister Bheki Cele told hundreds of delegates at an international crime conference on Tuesday that he is "not messing around" when it comes to the scourge of counterfeit goods.
Cele delivered the opening address to 500 delegates from more than 80 countries attending the 13th International Law Enforcement Intellectual Property Crime conference being held in Cape Town.
The conference runs for two days and will "bring together police, customs, regulatory agencies and private sector IP [intellectual property] crime investigators to share and develop best practices to combat counterfeiting and piracy crimes".
"Stealing is stealing, thieves are thieves," Cele told delegates.
"The act of downloading a movie from a file sharing site may seem harmless or purchasing a cheap knockoff may seem harmless. The reality is that the accumulated economic loss can destroy small to large businesses."
He said it was in everyone's best interest to ensure that the production and distribution of counterfeit goods was stamped out because the illicit industry was curtailing the efforts of legitimate entrepreneurs.
"Strengthening intellectual property rights reassures innovators and investors that when they commit time and money, they will reap the rewards," he said. "It is a crime that takes food off the table for millions of households. We need to fight this thing now. We have declared a war against counterfeit goods."
Raids in Johannesburg the past two months have seen R200m worth of goods confiscated, with more than 500 undocumented foreigners arrested in connection with the sale of counterfeit clothing, DVDs and other goods.
"We are focusing on manufacturers and distribution points," said Cele. "We are not playing here. We must stay ahead of criminals."
He said that the task at hand would require a joint effort between various law enforcement agencies.
"If we are to dismantle these networks, we must work together, be creative in our approach and use all our resources and tools available to us."
The recent raids in Johannesburg sparked widespread anger from foreigners, who felt they were being targeted by the crime-fighting initiative.