Procurement of Supplies and Information in the National Interest

The National Supplies Procurement Act 1970 is another relic from the days of the total onslaught against the Republic. The total onslaught, the story went, was the threat posed to South Africa (and indeed to the Western world) by the Soviet Union’s designs on the strategic value of South Africa as the industrial powerhouse of the African continent, the guardian of the sea lanes around the Cape of Good Hope, and in particular the possessor of enormous mineral wealth, which combined with the mineral wealth profile of the Soviet Union would enable that country to hold the world to ransom. Furthermore, there were revolutionary forces at work within South Africa, which were intent upon supporting and fuelling this threat.1

The Act is still in force, though. Its purpose is to empower the Minister of Economic Affairs to procure anything – goods or services – deemed necessary for the security of the Republic regardless of tender procedures, protocols, other laws and what-have-you. He could issue orders and promulgate prohibitions regarding the manufacture, production, acquisition, disposal, hire, or use of any goods or services.

A. General offences

  1. If the Minister has, either by notice in the Government Gazette or directly to the person concerned, issued any order prohibiting the manufacture, production, acquisition, disposal, hire, or use of any goods or services it is an offence to contravene the instruction.2

  2. He can also issue directions regulating the use of any goods or services, or the possession of any goods. It is an offence to contravene any such regulation.3

  3. The Minister can also order what is to be done if someone comes into possession of specified goods. It is a crime to contravene the order.4

  4. In certain situations, the notice could concern the use of any service supplied by the State. It is an offence to contravene any such regulations, controls or prohibitions.5

B. Demands for goods and services

  1. The Minister can demand that any person who is capable of supplying any goods or services, or who is capable of manufacturing, producing, processing, treating or disposing of any goods, or is a supplier of any service, to supply and deliver same as specified by the Minister. It is a crime not to comply with such a demand.6

  2. When called upon to do so, the person concerned shall declare and certify the cost to him of such supply and delivery. It is an offence not to do so.7

C. Obtaining and disclosing information

  1. The Minister can order any person who deals in certain specified goods, or who has dealt in such goods, or who has handled such goods in trade, or who controls the supply of any service, to furnish such information relating to that business as the Minister specifies. It is a crime not to comply with such an order.8

  2. The Minister can also order that records be kept, and it is an offence not to do so.9

  3. Certain inspectors have the right to demand to see books and documents relating to any such goods or services as are subject to the Ministerial orders referred to. It is a crime to refuse to comply with such a request.10

  4. Any person who furnishes incorrect information, whether in any record or return, or makes any entry which is incorrect, commits a criminal offence.11

  5. These inspectors can demand entry to premises to conduct enquiries, take samples, and the like. It is a crime not to furnish the inspector with such facilities as he may require for carrying out his duties.12

  6. It is a crime to disclose any information acquired in the performance of such duties (except to an authorized person).13

  7. It is a crime to disclose any information concerning any goods or services subject to directions of the Minister as referred to above, or any statement, comment or rumour intended to convey such information (or anything purporting to be such information).14

  8. In fact, the Minister can prohibit the disclosure of any information (or statement, comment or rumour intended to convey such information) in relation to any goods or services if he considers it to be in the public interest. It is a crime to contravene such prohibition.15

D. Liability of employers or principals

  1. Any act or omission which constitutes an offence in terms of the Act shall constitute an offence also committed by the employer or principal of such person, unless he proves that he did not permit the act or omission in question, that he took all reasonable measures to prevent it, and that anyway such act or omission did not fall under the course of the person’s employment or the scope of his authority.16
  1. From the book A Crime Against Humanity – Analysing the Repression of the Apartheid State edited by Max Coleman, (Cape Town) and reproduced on the website of SA History – see

  2. Section 2(b)i and section 2(c) read with section 17. 

  3. Section 2(b)ii read with section 17. 

  4. Section 2(b)iii read with section 17. 

  5. Section 2A read with section 17. 

  6. Section 3(1) read with section 17. 

  7. Section 3(3) read with section 17. 

  8. Section 6(1)a and 6(1)b read with section 6(3). 

  9. Section 6(1)c read with section 6(3). 

  10. Section 6(2) read with section 6(3)b. 

  11. Section 6(3)c. 

  12. Section 7(2) read with section 17. 

  13. Section 8. 

  14. Section 8A. 

  15. Section 8B. 

  16. Section 16A.