Research commissioned by PPC, one of South Africa's biggest cement producers, has found consumers are bearing the brunt of cheap and poor quality cement. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – Research commissioned by PPC, one of South Africa's biggest cement producers, has found consumers are bearing the brunt of cheap and poor quality cement.

PPC South Africa managing director Njombo Lekula told journalists in Kempton Park yesterday that sub-standard cement products were threatening the local built environment.

Lekula said the group commissioned a study two years ago when it realised that certain industry players were not conforming to standards. 

He said as part of PPC’s normal market surveillance activities, the company tested competitor products and found that in general the larger, more established cement producers complied with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).  

But he said that tests done on products sourced from producers who buy pure cement and blend it with fly ash and slag to make a composition warranted further investigation. 

Lekula said in Gauteng alone there were 60 different products, but not all of them were of good quality. 

“We live in the community, we know the economic times are difficult, but people are looking for affordable cement, not poor-quality cement,” Lekula said. “They are looking for a product they can use. The product ends up with people who use the little money they have to put up structures for their families that will last for generations. We know that if the quality of the product is poor, in 10 to 15 years we will see the results of that.” 

Lekula said PPC contracted Beton-Lab, a Johannesburg-based independent laboratory, to perform the tests. 

“We said to Beton-Lab, you go, find the bags of cement and test them. All we want is the results. The results, to say the least, have been shocking,” Lekula said.

The study involved 274 samples of 14 products from 10 companies. 

PPC said it had moved to make the study public owing to its corporate responsibility to all its stakeholders.

Alan de Kock, managing member of Beton-Lab, said the study showed that most cement producers had the inability to produce consistent, quality cement, which complied with the SABS standards.

He said the study found that in many instances the products were either overweight or underweight.

“The bottom line is to ensure that the consumers get what he or she is paying for, and that the right product is used for the right application,” said De Kock, who added that poor workmanship could aggravate the problem.

“If you have a sub-standard product and poor workmanship, it's a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Thomas Madzivhe, general manager of chemical, mechanical and materials at the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, said the regulator would study the report. 

“For us we would like to have the report as raw as it is, and see what is happening and see whether we know the companies or not or whether we have issued them with a letter of authority and whether there is a problem with the compliance body,” he said, adding the body's resources were constrained as it was funded by the industry in terms of levies.

“I know the industry has an issue with imports, but with imports, there was no problem of substandard quality,” he said.