Mokhalipi said people started coming with complaints about the condoms on Jan. 11 — three days after the celebrations ended — prompting his office to run some tests.
“We poured water into the condoms and they were leaking, not just in one place, they were leaking like a sieve,” he said. Looking at them, “you can see there are small pores” like pinpricks.
He said the health department had distributed a new batch of condoms last week, which did not leak under the water test.
Health department spokesman Mbalula said pouring water into a condom and applying pressure was not a proper test, though Mokhalipi denied applying pressure.
Mbalula said his department recalled the contraceptives to conduct scientific tests. He did not know when results would be available.
An organization that has a lot of experience with condoms, the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, said many of the 10,000 to 15,000 prostitutes they work with often complain about the free government condoms. The Taskforce said they instead use a brand provided by an international charity.
“The CHOICE condoms that the government is distributing are very unsatisfactory and we have a lot of complaints about condoms breaking,” said Maria Stacey, SWEAT’s outreach and development manager.
South Africa’s government sources its condoms from several companies and rebrands them with its colorful CHOICE packaging, in bright blue, red, yellow and green.
Mbalula noted that all the condoms distributed in Bloemfontein were stamped to indicate that they were in batches that had been quality tested by the Bureau of Standards. Bureau spokeswoman Verna Schutte would only confirm that they were investigating the condoms.
Neither she nor the health spokesman could say which country or company had manufactured the condoms.