/ 14 October 2007

Defective condoms found scattered north of Durban

About 100 000 unused defective condoms were found scattered at an illegal dumping site in the Ntande area near Etafuleni in Inanda, north of Durban, on Saturday, the provincial department of agriculture and environmental affairs said.

KwaZulu-Natal minister of agriculture and environmental affairs Mtholephi Mthimkhulu has vowed to take strong legal action against whoever is found to have been responsible for the illegal dumping of the condoms.

Following a tip-off from a member of the public, Mthimkhulu, accompanied by a member of the department’s environmental management inspectorate — popularly known as the ”Green Scorpions” — had rushed to the site and found the unused, government-issue condoms scattered all over the road. Some were unsealed.

”On further inspection, the illegally dumped consignment of condoms was found to have been part of the batch that was recalled by the Health Department a couple of months ago following a media exposé of irregular conduct by a standardisation official who is alleged to have approved defective condoms which had to be recalled later,” the provincial department said in a statement.

”I view this illegal dumping of such a health hazard … in a very serious light,” said Mthimkhulu. ”Hence I have been in constant with my colleagues in the provincial health department and the eThekwini municipality health department.

”We have opened a case at Inanda police station on the contravention of section 30 of the Environmental Conservation Act, which regulates the dumping of medically hazardous waste and the dumping of waste in a non-designated area such as a landfill site or a recognised incinerator.”

He added that local schoolchildren had been seen playing with some of the defective condoms, which posed a serious problem from a hygienic point of view.

Mthimkhulu said it was not yet clear who had dumped the condoms in the area but there were strong indications that it could have been done at night, likely by a contractor who was supposed to have transported the condom consignment to an incinerator for destruction.

”This blatant disregard of the public health rights of the people living in this area should not go unpunished and I hope our probe into this illegal act will yield immediate results so that we can demonstrate to the culprits responsible that as government we do care about the environment within which our people live,” said Mthimkhulu.

In August, the national Health Department recalled 20-million potentially defective condoms approved by an official accused of taking bribes from a manufacturer. The condoms did not meet several standard tests for strength, pressure and lubrication, said departmental spokesperson Sibani Mngadi at the time.

Unsafe sex is especially risky in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates with an estimated 12% of its 47-million people infected with the virus.

There are up to 1 000 Aids-related deaths in South Africa every day and free condom distribution is a crucial part of the government’s efforts to combat the spread of the epidemic.