CRACKDOWN on the escalating trade in second-hand underwear in various markets has been intensified, with the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) now resorting to dealing with wholesale dealers and importers instead of retailers only.
Searching for the garments has not been that easy either as sellers and vendors are now reportedly secretly conducting the business despite the ban by TBS.
The Bureau's Public Relations Officer, Mrs Roida Andusamile, told the 'Daily News' that while efforts to seize the undergarments were going on, starting with Dar es Salaam region and later to the rest of the country, special focus was now on importers and wholesalers.
"We are aware of some of the business people involved in the importation of these inferior garments, but we are yet to snatch any. However, an operation has been launched to hunt down and book them accordingly," she said.
The government, through TBS, announced an official ban on the sale of used underwear in June, this year, saying it was acting because of the possibility of users developing skin diseases.
According to TBS, evidence had shown that there was a big demand for used clothes in the country, hence came up with standards for the garments, but also arrived at a decision to restrict the importation of garments in order to protect the health of millions of wearers.
A survey by the 'Daily News,' however, has established that market traders were unhappy with the decision, many claiming that there was no proof that imported clothes posed any health risk.
"It is high time that laws should now be enacted to block illegal importation of these clothes and products as well as removing them from the market," Mrs Andusamile said.
The government has decided to ban the importation of second-hand clothes over the people's health and the need to protect the environment.
It gave an extended notice to importers and traders of secondhand clothing to clear from the market garments such as socks, underpants, brassieres, camisoles, vests and night dresses.
"All persons dealing in used garments are hereby reminded that importation and sale of used undergarments in the country is not allowed for public health and safety reasons," said a statement from TBS.
TBS has warned that violators would be charged under Section 27 of the Standards Act No 2 of 2009 and that their goods would be disposed of at the owner's cost.
Health experts have increasingly warned that continued wearing of used undergarments could cause various skin diseases with a high cost to the nation in providing treatment to sufferers.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, over 452,356 tonnes of second-hand clothes worth over 455m/- were imported between 2005 and 2011 and at least 2,992 trading licences were issued by local authorities to second-hand dress dealers in the same period.
Tanzania has about 60 main importers of used garments who distribute them to retailers in an industry that employs a big number of people around the country.