The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) in the Western Cape will be writing to the Department of Labour to be part of the formal inquiry into the blast which took place at Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) in the Western Cape last week. Eight people were killed when an explosion occurred at the munitions depot. The damage was so extensive that it destroyed the entire building.
We send our condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were killed in the blast at (RDM). 21-year old Jason Hartzenberg was one of those who has been killed. It is reported that he had dreams of being a police officer. We send our deepest sympathies to Hartzenbergs family and friends, as well as to all those who lost loved ones in the explosion.
Denel SOC owns 49% of RDM and as NUMSA we are recognized at Denel nationally. We have an interest in the matter as per section 31 and 32 (5)(c) (iv)of OHSA 85 of 1993, as the recognition agreement was signed at a National level. This gives us the right to demand that we participate in whatever inquiry or investigation which may take place at the plant to establish the cause of the blast. We are concerned that a company which is partly owned by Denel, should experience such a tragedy. We are concerned about the safety of workers at that plant and we are wondering whether all safety procedures were followed.
Could it be that the company clearly and blatantly violated the explosives regulations as contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act? Only an independent investigation will be able to confirm whether there was a deliberate omission or commission by the employer.
The incident is a painful reminder of the Assmang Cato Ridge furnace explosion of 2008 where seven of our members perished in the explosion. The presiding officer in the inquiry that ensued, recommended the prosecution of some senior managers. To this day, the file is gathering dust at the office of the captured office of the National Prosecuting Authority. They claim that they do not have the competency to prosecute OHSA violations, and only have capacity to and prioritise civil and criminal cases. That alone boggles the mind. Our members have lost their basic human right to life. Wives have lost their husbands, children have lost fathers and the only source for their families’ livelihood and the state still doesn’t care enough to prosecute the guilty party.
Only an independent and thorough investigation of the plant will reveal the true cause of the accident. We will do everything in our power to unearth the truth behind this incident for the sake of workers and their families. We demand justice and compensation for those who lost loved ones, and those who were injured in the accident.
Isseud by NUMSA