Laurentia Samuels, widow of factory supervisor Nico Samuels, during the Denel-Rheinmetal hearings at the Community House in Salt River. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Laurentia Samuels, widow of factory supervisor Nico Samuels, during the Denel-Rheinmetal hearings at the Community House in Salt River. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Denel Inquiry: All we want is justice for our people so they can rest in peace, says families

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Oct 21, 2021

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Cape Town - Family members of the eight people who were killed in the fatal 2018 explosion at Cape Town’s Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) on Wednesday spoke out about their unhappiness with how long it was taking to get answers about who was responsible for the deaths.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Department of Employment and Labour’s public commission of inquiry into the explosion, family members accused RDM of dodging responsibility for what happened.

The eight who died in the explosion were: team leader Stevon Isaacs, 51, operators Mxolisi Sigadla, 40, Bradley Tandy, 19, Jamie Haydricks, 24, Jason Hartzenberg, 22, Triston Davids, 22, and Thandolwethu Mankayi, 27, as well as factory supervisor Nico Samuels, 41.

Factory supervisor Nico Samuels’ widow Laurentia said: “We are basically fed up with what is going on. We just want the company to take responsibility for our loved ones who have passed on.

“They are to blame. They are prolonging our struggle to grieve and learning how to move forward. We will never get over it, but every time we have to listen to these testimonies it is like a wound that won’t heal because it keeps getting ripped open.

“All we want is justice for our people so they can rest in peace and we don’t think that will happen here because Denel employees giving evidence are contradicting each other with their testimonies,” said Samuels.

Triston David’s father Malcolm said: “All the witnesses since the first sitting in May have been RDM’s witnesses. We are not sure if our advocate Winston Erasmus will be putting up witnesses or not.”

His wife Lizel David said: “We would like to know who will be prosecuted.”

The incident occurred at the N16 plant of RDM, where the CBI single-base propellant was being produced and is thought to have been responsible for the explosion.

Inside the Community House in Salt River where the inquiry will be taking evidence from witnesses until Friday this week, the day’s fourth witness Alte Janse van Rensburg, plant engineer (factories), came under close questioning about whether there was a risk assessment carried out with the replacement of the valve.

Alte Janse van Rensburg during the Denel-Rheinmetall hearings at the Community House in Salt River. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Both advocate Erasmus and inquiry chairperson Mphumzi Dyulete pressed Janse van Rensburg for answers on who was involved in signing off the changing from the use of the usual “butterfly valve” to an “iris mucon valve” and whether anyone had seen that it was correctly fitted on the Friday before the Monday explosion.

The questioning on this one issue went on for nearly 12 minutes before Janse van Rensburg finally conceded there was no test done on the valve.

Dyulete asked: “If the commissioning was not done for the N16 installation does that mean someone acted in a very wrong way by continuing to blend the propellant?”

Van Rensburg responded: “Yes”

At this point there was applause from the families. The commission of inquiry continues today.

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Cape Argus

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