Tag Archives: South Africa

Ordered clothes from overseas? How to work out customs fees.

I’m ashamed to admit I contribute significantly to the UK economy due to an ASOS addiction. But until I can have a local online shopping experience with the same variety and brilliant UX , I will continue taking advantage of mega-sales from overseas.

The only problem is CUSTOMS. Your amazing package of goodies eventually arrives after sitting at OR Tambo for a month and then they nail you with fees that are nearly the total value of what you ordered. It’s laughable that imports flowed almost freely in the 90s for just long enough to kill our local manufacturing industry before government decided this might not be a wise idea. So now we have a situation where there is almost-zero local manufacturing plus you can’t get your hands on decent international clothing either.

But that’s another debate entirely. A few months ago I patiently had a long conversation with a very helpful SARS official who spelled out how those damn fees actually work. I wrote down the formula, but for those who didn’t pass mathematics I’ve put it into an example below using the amount of R1000 as a base.


R1000 x 10% (customs fee) = R100

R1000 x 45% (customs duty) = R450

R1000 + R100 + R450 = R1550

R1550 x 14% (VAT) = R217

R1550 + R217 = R1767

R1767 – R1000 = R767

Total Fees: R767 (for R1000 worth of goods)

Note that this applies to all textiles and clothing imports. The only way you won’t pay duties is if the package is clearly marked “Samples”, and even then SARS might decide to charge you, especially if the tags are still attached.

For those who do like formulae, here is the original:

x10% = y

x45% = z

x + y + z = a

a14% = b

a + b = c

c – x = Total Fees

The magic of Franschhoek

South Africa is my country, but I’ve felt a kinship with certain places that is not based on language, culture or nationality. One of them is the island of Ithaca in Greece, where some of my ancestors are from. The other is Franschhoek, another ancestral home, but unfortunately one with no ancestral land.

Alistair and I would go to the Cheese Festival every year and make a weekend of it in Franschhoek, staying in a private cottage with our own pool. It was an escape from “hectic” Cape Town.

A few weeks ago we went back for the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to (except my own of course) and stayed in the same cottage. We took long walks, read our books, and of course ate out – a lot. Franschhoek has a ridiculously high concentration of exceptional restaurants.

I have to thank JamieWho who recommended Pierneef a La Motte, where I could eat every day for the rest of my life (try the Springbok, Red Wine & Truffle Risotto). We also went to Mange Tout at La Rochelle for spectacular views and traditional fine dining. Completely delectable and completely relaxing.

The wedding at Vrede en Lust was breathtakingly elegant and beautiful. Beyond words really. Charne and Andrew are uniquely kind and special people, never cynical or disingenuous. Time with them is always refreshing. So of course everyone cried, even me, and then we danced until late under the super-full moon.

When Al and I got back to the cottage, we couldn’t resist a 1am skinny-dip under the stars. Everything felt just right for the first time in a long time. That’s the magic of Franschhoek for me.

Spud & John Cleese

I went to the Spud premiere on Saturday night. It was a completely last minute invitation that saw Gaby and I throw on playsuits and GHD our hair into submission in the space of 5 minutes. Later that night I met John Cleese.

The premiere event at MonteCasino was fantastic – a free tuckshop where you could load up on as many Milo bars and Jelly Tots as you wanted! Photo booths for happy snaps of you and your friends! Boarding school snacks and sandwiches! Oh, and John Cleese was there.

The movie was rollicking, boys-own fun and my favourite Python was genius, as usual. The kids were great too, especially Jamie Royal (Gecko).

Steady direction from Donovan Marsh (Dollars & White Pipes) and crisp cinematography by Lance Gewer (Tsotsi, Beat The Drum), combined with high production values, will make this a surefire local hit. It’s being released in South African cinemas 3 December 2010.

It will be interesting to see how Spud does in the States, where most of John van der Ruit’s books have been sold. I think it has the potential to do surprisingly well. The humour is accessible enough for international markets, with the high-jinx, naughty schoolboy experience being pretty universal too.

Obviously it all comes down to publicity, but I’m sure the legend of Mr. Cleese will help with that. (He was very English and polite, despite being obviously tired from numerous fans asking him why the fish was called Wanda.)

A Capetonian in Joburg: First impressions

I’ve been here nearly two weeks after our “semigration” from my home city of Cape Town. Most of it’s been spent unpacking boxes, drinking too much whisky and driving around the megalopolis trying to find decent furniture.

In da area

The GPS has taken me through Mayfair, similar to the rougher parts of Woodstock with its seedy slum feel, and a suburb called Blairgowrie, which could have been directly transplanted from Cape Town’s Plumstead.

Then there was Fourways. Fourways defies comparison, but imagine Parklands mixed with Belville, multiply by 20 and wave a Tuscan wand over it.

I know it’s unfair and probably more than a little inaccurate to draw parallels with Cape Town areas, but hey, it gives me a sense of order. Desperately needed in a place that seems to sprawl and disseminate itself without end.

I visited Parkhurst and felt like the démodé cousin from a less stylish country. New Zealand perhaps.

Oriental Plaza was far more fun and affordable for someone who’s spent numerous days of her life hunting bargains at Access Park. It’s a bit rougher and much bigger than Access Park, with more Indian clothing and less sombre Muslims.

The coconut samoosas from World of Samoosas are incredible, and I sat in the sun quite happily munching five or six of them.

Rays! Golden rays!

Ah yes, the sun. The Joburg weather in general really. Yes, it’s very cold at night, but the days are magnificent for someone who only knows July and August as raining, grey, sleeting or storming.

How can I explain the simple joy of putting on lipgloss without having to check the wind speed first? Or hanging up a load of laundry and having it dry in one day?

Unfortunately this dryness also extends to lips, skin, sinuses and even my eyeballs – I used a pack of CelluFresh and a tub of Body Shop Shea Body Butter in a week. Still, worth it for the 22-degree midday high.

How can we help you?

Then there’s the usual question – are Joburgers really friendlier? Well, yes, largely by dint of socialising like the world’s going to end tomorrow. I’ve gone out more in the past two weeks than I would in two months at home.

Joburgers have also been incredibly welcoming and helpful to a one-city woman who feels rather misplaced and clumsy at this altitude. And, unlike Capetonians, nobody asks, “What school did you go to?” within five seconds of meeting you.

But despite its cliquishness and miserable winters, I still miss my Cape Town – crazy family and friends, all the best restaurants within a 5km radius, surfing at Muizenberg and Big Bay, strolling down Long Street on Saturday morning, sundowners over the Atlantic…

So to avoid being a sulky and morose émigré, I’m going to discover and embrace all the fantastic little things about living here. Like the fact my Cape Town apartment could fit into the bedroom of my Joburg one. Or that virtually every restaurant has halloumi on the breakfast menu. And that Mozambique is within driving distance.

One of my best friends, a fellow Capetonian-in-Joburg, keeps telling me, “This is an adventure for a couple of years. Then we’ll be home.”

He’s right. And I’m going to do, see, touch, taste and experience as much of it as I can. Starting with those coconut samoosas.