Thursday, October 11, 2012


THE GREAT PLASTIC BAG HEIST... .. Or how the government has been asphyxiating our monies for 9 years... ..

A recent radio consumer report was aired by a Durban based radio station and their “Lois Lane” consumer watch reporter had done extensive research and leg work on the topic which she was about to air. I must digress a tad here and state that judging by her “profile / avatar picture" that she must have a grand set of legs to match the face, however like I say I digress.

Her topic was raised by a very astute gent hailing from Pietermaritzburg who simply wanted to know what ever happened to all that cash that was raised over the last 9 years by the sale of plastic 24 litre shopping bags which were dished out free and gratis prior to 2003 to all shoppers?

Apparently a company called BUYISA E BAG was set up to ensure jobs and all manner of spectacular things by making thicker plastic packets to carry our groceries home from the supermarkets and thus lessen the amount of free bags ending up on land fill sites blah blah blah. I recall the horror of people having to pay for bags to lug their groceries home and the endless squabbles when a bag that was paid for burst open spilling it`s overpacked contents all over the floor of the supermarket. Near riots were caused by people who did not take into account the extra cost of the bags and this was especially prevalent in the “lower income” stores. A24 litre bag was crammed with upwards of 30 litres and 25 kilos of groceries, thus something had to give!

Buyisa quietly carried on with their mass defrauding of the public and went on about business as usual along with the government who had just secured revenues to the tune of around one hundred and fifty million Rands a year with the sale of plastic bags yet no upliftment or social projects were forth coming. Man these dudes were rolling in polyethylene cash! I am truly bad at Math but even I can use a calculator and work out one hundred and fifty million rand times 9. That is a big bag of cash and where the hell has it all gone? What did Buyisa who went “under” last year and the government do with all that money? I for one do not see any great successful projects up and running with the revenue gleaned from us, I do not and never have heard of any intended or actual projects that grew from this initiative.

Hell until this morning it never even crossed my mind, the listener from Pietermaritzburg has unwittingly opened a hornets nest and we must now demand to know exactly where all that money went! We are not talking about a few hundred Rand here we are into the billions and that is money our country desperately needs to get the poor , ill, aged, disadvantaged out of the dwang, instead I fear it was blown on houses, cars, parties and other nonsense that is not helping the average South African! We deserve to know exactly who the “bagmen” are and what the hell they did with all the money! We are being robbed blind at every turn be it at the tills by paying for bags whose surcharge never sees the light of day or at the petrol pumps where levies and surcharges are being waylaid at a fantastic rate and proportion. We pay for all these thing in the belief that those charges are going to be utilized for the upkeep of roads, infrastructure or the betterment of communities, to this I say balderdash! We are being fleeced blind, hoodwinked, bamboozled and defrauded by unscrupulous thugs in suits. Even when Buyisa were dragged before some or other committee the big brass at the bag company did not even bother pitching up in person, instead they sent their lone wolf attorney to give some hokey lame duck flimsy 5 micron excuses.

I am going to copy paste the original text with all “Lois Lane`s*” detail so as to fully cover bases and ensure I have not omitted or added any redundant or incorrect facts.

Wendy Knowler Until nine years ago, South Africans got free plastic carrier bags from  the supermarkets they chose to shop at.  Then the government stepped in and said to curb plastic waste, those bags had to be made of thicker plastic - at least 24 microns - and the supermarkets, along with other retailers, had to start charging their customers for them, the idea being that the cost and the enhanced quality would encourage people to re-use rather than discard them. As an added bonus, three cents - now four cents -  collected by Sars, would go towards the setting up of a Section 21 company called Buyisa-e-Bag, which would set up recycling plants around the country, creating jobs while cleaning up the environment. Brilliant. Well, we’re sorry to say that that grand plan has gone horribly wrong.

Buyisa-e-Bag was wound up at the end of last year, having accomplished nothing. According to government statistics, plastic bag recovery for recycling has remained ridiculously low – less than five percent – since the levy was introduced. Meanwhile, we’re still paying for plastic bags; an unregulated amount which varies from supermarket to supermarket. In other words, they can charge what they like.  At the moment PnP  and Shoprite Checkers are charging 39c per pag, Spar 36c and Woolworths 44c. 

All four groups denied making any profit out of the sale of plastic bags. Incidentally, until a month ago, fast growing national supermarket chain Cambridge Foods - which caters for low income consumers - was charging an astonishing 69c for its bags, and after a query from Consumerwatch, they reduced this swiftly to 40c.

What is the Treasury doing with the R150-million a year or so in plastic bag levies? I asked back in August but I am yet to get a response. Bearing in mind that the plastic bags are a lot thicker than they were pre-2003, we’ve actually gone backwards – there is effectively a lot more plastic landing up in landfills, in the form of supermarket carrier bags, than before the environmental initiative was launched. The only groups winning out of this are the government - thanks to the levy - and the plastics industry. What can you do? Well, stop buying bags as a matter of course, re-use the thicker bags - they’re made thicker for this purpose - or invest in one of many eco-bags which do donate a portion of the sales to worthy causes.
Wendy Knowler


This was my response to the radio station that aired the piece pertaining to this dire and brazen misappropriation of cash over the last nine years.
Outstanding question posed and very "interesting" findings on the blatant defrauding of the South African public at large. After your piece on the radio I am sure there will be rumblings and heart palpitations in certain official circles.

If the numbers are correct pertaining to the wanton "theft" of the monies earmarked for all kinds of social upliftment projects have been indeed squandered or misguided these past 9 years then it seems the government owes the public an apology and a huge chunk of revenue back into the economy, not to mention long prison terms for the by now self ingratiated fat cats who squirelled the cash away to pave the way for their own needs above those of the people they swore to uplift and help.

They almost got away with it as nobody has ever really questioned where the money from the sale of plastic packets went. Rajesh is a brave or totally oblivious individual and has opened a proverbial can of worms. of revenue must be "bagged, tagged and charged!" They have stolen MILLIONS!!!! Thanks for the truly eye popping and ear bursting report. Those guilty of the siphoning of revenue, the criminals at the heart of this bad bag scam should be “charged, tagged and bagged” for fraud!
Michael B Da Silva.

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