Rainbow Power Cement (RPC), a blended cement manufacturer and distributor, has been prohibited by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) from manufacturing and supplying cement to the South African market.
The prohibition was issued after bags of RPC product were found to be non-compliant with the minimum compulsory safety specifications for cement.
The NRCS has also confiscated thousands of bags of RPC cement and issued a directive to stop the sale and supply of its products.
This information emerged at a briefing on Tuesday by JSE-listed cement and lime producer PPC, about sub-standard cement in the Gauteng market.
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Attempts to obtain comment from Rainbow Power Cement were unsuccessful.
Njombo Lekula, MD of PPC’s Southern African businesses, said sub-standard cement products are threatening the built environment industry and placing the lives of South Africans at risk.
Lekula said PPC tested the products of its competitors to ensure it stayed ahead and, in this process, started realising about three years ago that quite a lot of cement product was not conforming to the compulsory standard “and very dangerously so”.
He said it realised that any attempt to address this issue would be perceived as trying to thwart competition in the market.
Therefore in September 2017 PPC appointed SA National Accreditation System-accredited Beton-Lab, an independent laboratory, to purchase the bags itself – to maintain the chain of custody and ensure there wasn’t any interference from any outside party – and to test the cement products.
Lekula said the non-conformity of strength and weights of some products ranged from 11% to 73% of the sample set.
At a 73% failure rate, this means that three out of four bags that someone bought were not delivering the strength that was promised on the bag.
A total of 274 samples, covering ten companies and 14 products, were tested by Beton-Lab, with 33% of these samples failing.
“This failure to conform to local standards not only has an impact on the structural integrity of buildings but also poses a threat to possible damage of property and even loss of life should the walls come tumbling down,” said Lekula.
He added that most of the sub-standard cement products tested also carried the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) mark, the stamp of regulatory approval that also instils trust in the product being sold.
The test report data was reported and made available to the SABS and the NRCS in April last year.
RPC ‘not the only culprit’
Based on the test results, Lekula believes more than one cement producer should have been stopped from producing.
“You cannot go and buy a product every second or third week and find the very same product not conforming week in and week out. That cannot be coincidental,” he said.
Thomas Madzivhe, general manager of chemicals, mechanical and materials at the NRCS, said it, as the regulator, is very committed and passionate about ensuring the safety of users of regulated products.
He said the cement industry has a problem with imported cement, which is not sub-standard, but the NRCS has a problem with cement blenders.
“We are pleased to see this report but would like to look at the information ourselves and see how far can we work together to ensure safety in as far as cement is concerned,” he said.
Katima Temba, the executive responsible for testing at SABS, said the organisation has a multi-pronged approach to ensure that compliance with compulsory standards is maintained.
Temba stressed the importance of getting rid of non-compliant and inferior products in the market.
“As per our certification processes, as and when non-conformances are raised, we follow a certain process to sanction accordingly.
“The authorities will name and shame at the right time, when it is right to say who is not complying and what is happening.”