Johannesburg - Presidential guards are gearing up to protect at least 70 doorways for the president.

And they’ll be wearing flame-retardant uniforms while they do it.

The Presidential Protection Service (PPS) is buying 70 X-ray inspection units, 140 walkthrough magnetometers, 280 handheld magnetometers and 6 720m of “flame retardant modacrylic-cotton camouflage printed fabric” for uniforms.

That’s what is in SAPS documents on what the PPS needs.

The PPS is part of the SAPS’s protection and security services programme, which also includes the VIP Protection Services, which protects the president, deputy president, former presidents, their spouses, and other VIP dignitaries in transit. The duties of the PPS aren’t specified in the SAPS budget, but probably include some of those VIPs.

Despite the spending for “security” for the president on his private Nkandla homestead, the state seems to have forgotten some basics.

So now the PPS is buying 70 X-ray inspection units, 140 walkthrough and 280 handheld magnetometers. Magnetometers are metal detectors, used to check for weapons and metal objects on people, while the X-ray units are used to check bags.

Those numbers indicate that the guards are protecting at least 70 doorways used to access the president, and the documents indicate that these are in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.

The walkthrough magnetometers “shall be suitable to detect metallic objects on a person by means of magnetic scansion of the transit volume”.

In plain terms, that means you walk through the unit and the alarm goes off if you’re carrying something made of metal.

As it’s the PPS, there’s a little extra.

The PPS insignia (officially registered under the Heraldry Act in November) must be laser-engraved on the X-ray machines, 20cmx20cm in size, on both sides of each machine, and added to three places on each magnetometer.

And they must be pretty.

“All the magnetometers units (sic) must be similar in colour to ensure aesthetic value,” say the specifications.

Their plan includes 6 720m of “flame retardant modacrylic-cotton camouflage printed fabric” for uniforms.

Or they could end up with a few kilometres more, as whoever wrote the advert for this tender misread the 6 720m and referred to “sixty seven thousand seven hundred and twenty metres” of fabric.

That’s enough to wrap Nkandla in.

It’s material that must survive 20 000 rubs without breaking, there must be no spontaneous combustion – “No ignition. No melting” – and after being washed five times, it must still be flame-proof.

“No flaming to top or side edge. No hole formation. No flaming, melting or molten debris. No afterflame. No afterglow,” the specifications state.

Those new uniforms will be grey overprinted with the official “random disruptive pattern for SAPS (PPS) field dress camouflage”.

The contracts haven’t yet been awarded.

SAPS headquarters did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

The Star