The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) confirmed that some 50kg bags of cement in a consignment of cement imported from Pakistan were underweight, but stressed it had not found any inferior quality cement on the local market.
Thomas Madzivhe, the NRCS’s acting chief executive, said yesterday that complaints of non-compliance received about Lucky Cement imported from Pakistan had been fully investigated and the NRCS was satisfied the certification bodies had done all the necessary checks and tests and that the cement complied with South Africa’s regulations.
Madzivhe said the NRCS suspected market access and competitive and market share issues might be a reason for the complaints.
Musa Ndlovu, the NRCS’s acting executive for non-perishable products, said a directive had immediately been issued against Lucky Cement when complaints of non-compliance were received at the end of 2010, which meant this cement could not be sold in South Africa.
Ndlovu said the NRCS had done a full 28-day test on the cement, but the results did not provide it with any tangible evidence to prove the product was non-compliant in terms of quality. It had only found evidence once of non-compliance but this was based on “short measure” and not quality, he said.
This incident related to Lucky Cement found in the Port Elizabeth area in the NRCS’s 2009/10 financial year.
Jaco Marneweck, the NRCS’s acting executive of the legal metrology division, said the entire consignment was immediately stopped when the short measure was identified.
The manufacturer had the option of either sending this consignment back to the country of origin or repacking it, but in this instance, offered to evaluate the entire batch and remove all the underweight bags.
An inspection was then conducted and the corrected batch was allowed into South Africa, he said.
Ndlovu was unable to provide information on how much cement had been imported into South Africa to date this year, stating this information was kept by the SA Revenue Service and Statistics SA.
He added that the NRCS did regular sample testing of cement to check its conformity with the compulsory standard but was not required to do sample testing for every 500 tons of cement imported into the country.
Every cement producer and importer had to appoint an approved testing body to test and certify the quality of every 500 tons of cement produced or imported. The results of these tests had to be available to the NRCS for inspection, he said.
Bryan Perrie, the managing director of the Cement and Concrete Institute (C&CI), questioned how the NRCS could ensure that all the required conformity tests were being done, when it did not know how much cement was being imported.
“Some producers have got samples and tested them and some of it was sub-standard. We’re not saying all of it is sub-standard,” he said.
Ndlovu said the NRCS had issued 215 letters of authority (LOA) to cement importers and, because of the sensitivity around cement, had decided to put information about these LOAs on its web page. LOAs from the NRCS are required for cement to be legally imported into South Africa.
Perrie said this was a positive development and something the C&CI had been fighting for, for some time.
“It should be a more transparent process so anyone can pick up a bag of cement, check if it has an LOA and if it doesn’t, phone the regulator.”