Riot policemen. File photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
Riot policemen. File photo: Ihsaan Haffejee
21/10/09. Pepper Spray.

Picture: Phill Magakoe
21/10/09. Pepper Spray. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Johannesburg - It will cost less than R1 000 to provide a cop with a riot shield and six canisters of pepper spray.

The SAPS has finally bought the riot shields and pepper spray it was in the process of ordering last year when the Marikana shootings hit the headlines.

The SAPS is getting 1 953 riot shields for a total of R841 587, a year’s worth of pepper spray at 87 905 canisters for R6.593 million, and 61 000 pouches for the pepper spray at R610 000. Prices include VAT.

This works out at R431 for each riot shield, R75 per pepper spray and R10 a pouch.

For less than R1 000, a police officer can get a shield, six canisters of pepper spray and six pouches.

The total cost for those goods is R8.045m.

The SAPS spends twice that on catering, with R16m in the 2012/13 budget, and entertainment, at R12m for the year.

The August 16 shootings of striking miners by police at Marikana near Rustenburg in the North West are currently being examined by a commission of inquiry. The shootings highlighted the need for non-lethal crowd control methods.

Just weeks after the Marikana shootings, The Star reported on the SAPS plans to buy the non-lethal crowd-control items.

The SAPS had been planning to buy some of the items, but the process took months. The Star reported that the pepper spray specifications were revised in April last year, but were only signed off by a brigadier on August 15, the day before Marikana.

“The canister contents shall be non-flammable, ozone friendly and of food grade. No permanent harm shall be caused by the contents under normal use,” the specifications said.

The riot shield specifications were approved in March last year, and are meant to be transparent polycarbonate shields with “Police” marked on them in 10cm-high blue capital letters.

The SAPS also advertised at the same time for copies of the textbook Applied Law for Police Officials, but this tender has not yet been awarded, said the SAPS.

The riot shields are being bought from Quality Safety, based in Randvaal.

The pepper spray is being bought from WSTP General Construction and Projects in Pretoria.

There were seven bidders for the riot shields and Quality Safety’s bid was lowest by far.

There were 21 bidders for pepper spray, but the SAPS listed only three as complying with the bid specifications and, among those three, WSTP was cheapest.

Quality Safety’s managing director Brian Bland told The Star the shields were made from materials produced in South Africa, as required by the contract. Delivery of the full order is scheduled before the end of this financial year.

Bland, who has been involved in the sale and production of safety productions for decades, said the shields were made of 4mm-thick polycarbonate and measure 1m by 600cm. This is the material used in bulletproof glass, the shields are see-through and they have rubber washers for shock absorption.

The company buys the polycarbonate sheets in South Africa, even though this is about three times the cost of buying them – at the same quality – from China. That makes profit margins very small. “The riot shield is 100 percent South African-made,” said Bland.

His clients range from security companies to mines, Eskom and neighbouring countries’ police forces and sales include items sent to security companies in Sasolburg last week following the violent protests.

Quality Safety’s other director is prominent ANC member Mathews Phosa.

Bland told The Star they had been friends for years. Phosa had been involved in the business from the beginning, and there was nothing untoward about his involvement.

WSTP’s sole director, Thabo Portia Ngoma, did not respond to queries from The Star about the contract.

The Star found that WSTP’s registration with the Construction Industry Development Board expired last year and its head office address supplied to the CIDB does not exist.

The Star asked the SAPS why a construction company was appointed to deliver pepper spray.

“In terms of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act No 5 of 2000, no government department may exclude any person or category of persons to bid for any tender, therefore, accounting officers are required to give all potential suppliers an opportunity to bid for government contracts,” said Brigadier Lindela Mashigo.

The price of policing

What you get for R8m:

* What you get for R8m: 1 953 riot shields, at R431 each

* 87 905 pepper spray canisters, at R75 each

* 61 000 pepper spray pouches, at R10 each

How bidders compared:

* Highest price for riot shields: R1 304

* Lowest price for riot shields: R431 (winning bidder)

* Highest price for pepper spray canisters: R328

* Lowest price for pepper spray canisters: R51

* Highest price for pepper spray pouches: R295

* Lowest price for pepper spray pouches: R8

The Star