Southern African Customs Union
History and Present Status
The Southern African Customs Union came into existence
on 11 December 1969 with the signature of the Customs
Union Agreement between South Africa, Botswana,
Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. It entered into
force on the 1st of March 1970, thereby replacing
the Customs Union Agreement of 1910.
SACU is the oldest Customs Union in the world.
It meets annually to discuss matters related to
the Agreement. There are also technical liaison
committees, namely the Customs Technical Liaison
Committee, the Trade and Industry Liaison committee
and the Ad hoc Sub-Committee on Agriculture, which
meet three times a year.
Its aim is to maintain the free interchange of
goods between member countries. It provides for
a common external tariff and a common excise tariff
to this common customs area. All customs and excise
collected in the common customs area are paid into
South Africa national Revenue Fund. The Revenue
is shared among members according to a revenue-sharing
formula as described in the agreement. South Africa
is the custodian of this pool. Only the BLNS Member
States' shares are calculated with South Africa
receiving the residual. SACU revenue constitutes
a substantial share of the state revenue of the
Following the formation of the Government of National
Unity in South Africa in April 1994, Member States
concurred that the present Agreement should be renegotiated
in order to democratise SACU and address the current
needs of the SACU Member States more effectively.
With this in mind, the Ministers of Trade and Industry
of the five member states met in Pretoria on 11
November 1994 to discuss the renegotiation of the
1969 agreement. The Ministers appointed a Customs
Union Task Team (CUTT) which was mandated to make
recommendations to the Ministers. CUTT has met on
numerous occasions in the various Members States
and good progress has been made in the renegotiation
At a meeting of Ministers of Trade and Finance
Departments from the five SACU Member States, held
in Centurion, Pretoria on 5 September 2000, the
Ministers reached consensus on the principles of
underpinning the Institutional reform in the Southern
African Customs Union.
The Administrative Institutional structure of the
revenue pool that was discussed was agreed to consist
of the following:
Council of Ministers: A body represented by one
Minister from each SACU member state. It would be
the supreme SACU decision-making body and would
meet on quarterly basis. The decisions taken by
this Council would only be by consensus.
Commission: Administrative body comprised of Senior
Officials, three Technical Liaison Committees and
an established Agricultural Liaison Committee.
Tribunal: An independent body of experts. It would
report directly to the Council of Ministers. The
tribunal would be responsible for tariff-setting
and the Anti-dumping Mechanism.
Secretariat: Responsible for day to day operations
of the pool. It would also be funded from the revenue
pool. Its location would be determined by Senior
Officials who were directed to meet after a period
of a month to develop proposals for the implementation
of the revised SACU Institutional Structure.
SACU Ministers further agreed that the revenue
share accruing to each Member State should be calculated
from three basic components: