TRADE and Industry Minister Rob Davies acted beyond his powers in issuing a notice to compel traders in SA not to label products originating from occupied Palestinian territories as "made in Israel", the South African Zionist Federation said on Friday.
The federation approached the courts in a bid to force Mr Davies to set aside the notice and the case will be heard in the North Gauteng High Court later this year.
The issuing of the notice prompted a "furious" reaction by the Israeli government, which reportedly summoned the South African ambassador earlier this year to protest about it. Israel’s government claims it is being singled out because special labels are not applied to products made in dozens of other places where territorial conflicts exist.
The notice, if put into effect, could hamper Israeli companies wanting to do business in SA and also negatively affect large local retailers that stock merchandise from Israel.
The notice was given the thumbs up by the Cabinet last week but the federation believes the process of issuing it was legally flawed and vague.
Avrom Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, said on Friday that the process of issuing the notice was flawed and contravened sections of the Consumer Protection Act.
"We believe that the process of issuing the notice was unlawful and contravened the Consumer Protection Act … The minister acted beyond his powers … The notice also places the burden of proving where the goods came from on the trader, (this is not authorised by the Consumer Protection Act)," Mr Krengel said.
"We will continue to litigate, the minister (Mr Davies) is acting at the behest of Open Shuhada," he said, referring to civil rights lobby group Open Shuhada Street, which has been calling on the South African government to issue a notice requiring all products made in "illegal" Israeli settlements to be labelled as such.
Harold Jacobs, director at Werksmans Attorneys, who will represent the federation, said yesterday the general notice was "unconstitutionally vague".
"The general notice leaves the reader, including those whose rights and interests are affected and impacted upon by such notice, guessing as to what it reasonably conveys and what action is required consequent upon it," Mr Jacobs said.
Early this year Mr Davis said consumers in SA should not be misled into believing that products originating from the occupied territories were products originating from Israel.
Spokesman Sidwell Medupe said on Friday that the Department of Trade and Industry would continue to defend its decision to issue the notice.
Last week, Open Shuhada Street said it "strongly condemns the decision by the South African Zionist Federation to take Mr Davies to court".
"Once again the (federation) has reaffirmed its disregard for indisputable facts and international and South African laws regarding the settlements and goods produced in the settlements," the lobby group said.
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