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Monday Aug 06, 2012

Sexwale follows up on quality of cement

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale will "engage" with the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) about "disturbing reports" of inferior quality cement being imported into the country.

However, the NRCS claims its 200 cement inspections in the past six months had found no cement that was non-compliant with compulsory minimum standards.

It urged anyone with knowledge of non-compliant cement to inform the regulator so it could investigate.

The NRCS's claims are in stark contrast to allegations by the Cement & Concrete Institute (C&CI) and cement producer Lafarge South Africa that some imported cement that had been tested was not compliant.

Bryan Perrie, the managing director of the C&CI, said on Friday that imported cement had been tested last year and found to be below standard.

Letters had been written to the NRCS and the C&CI and its members had a few meetings with the regulator.

But Perrie said the problem was that the NRCS would not say how many tests had been done and how much cement was being imported, claiming that this information was confidential.

"There is no proof that they are doing the testing," he said.

The NRCS failed to answer specific questions posed by Business Report related to these issues. Sexwale said last week that questions were being asked about whether the right cement "is coming into the country and the regulator is doing the right thing".

"We want to engage the regulator. Sometimes we might be building with cement that is not equal to the task. We will check that. I'm not saying that is the situation," he said.

Sexwale said if inferior quality cement was coming into the country "we are asking for shoddy work" in a reference to the R50 billion the government had to spend on rectifying shoddy workmanship on lowcost housing.

Some of the inferior quality imported cement is believed to be coming from Pakistan.

Imported cement is apparently being sold for about R56 for a 50kg bag, compared with R70 for an identically sized bag of locally produced cement.

There have also been reports that some cement is being imported as flour to avoid import and customs duties.

The NRCS said it had to implement tight control over the cement industry "to sustain and encourage fair competition while at the same time protecting consumers against unethical and exploitative trade practices". It said parties found violating the provisions and norms of the legislation faced severe punitive actions.

To further tighten the regulation of cement, the NRCS said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and, together with Sars' customs unit, had commissioned a preborder enforcement pilot project at the Durban harbour.

Business Report

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