While a public inquiry by the Department of Labour found that the arms company has a case to answer, the NPA has closed the book on the case.
Families of the eight workers who died in the deadly blast at the Rheinmetall-Denel Munitions (RDM) plant in Somerset West in 2018 say they want a formal inquest to be conducted to hold the arms manufacturing company responsible for the deaths. The families were speaking at the commemoration ceremony which was held at the munitions factory in Macassar on Sunday.
The calls for an inquest come at the back of a decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the Western Cape not to prosecute anyone because the available evidence does not give them a reasonable prospect of successful prosecution. The NPA’s decision came as a shock to the families because a public inquiry by the Department of Employment and Labour that was headed by one of their inspectors recommended that the company be criminally prosecuted.
“We want a full inquest because the director of public prosecutions said they will not prosecute. We want them to prosecute and the families want justice. The families only saw their loved ones in the coffin, and they were unrecognisable and brings sadness to the families,” said Rhoda Ann Brazier from Greater Macassar Civic Organisation.
Terry Crawford-Browne, the South African coordinator of World Beyond War said they support the call for an inquest and are also concerned about the existence of an arms manufacturer operating in a residential area. “The families and the community are concerned about the contamination, safety and health consequences in a residential area. It is also an area that could be re-developed to provide more and better jobs than killing people in Ukraine and Yemen by selling ammunition to Nato countries. There is a 96-page report by Open Secrets on Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s complicity with Saudi Arabia and UAE catastrophe in Yemen but that has been under investigation and it is going nowhere,” said Crawford-Browne.
“Now we have Rheinmetall boasting about how it is busy 24/7 exporting ammunition to Nato countries which almost inevitably will end up in Ukraine where 450,000 Ukrainian soldiers are estimated to have been killed in this war. As South Africa claims to be non-aligned and neutral, it should not be exporting weapons to any country,” he said.
Recently, Elitsha reported that the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions in the Western Cape have said that they will write to the ministers of justice, labour and police to seek justice for the deceased workers and their families.
The speakers at the commemoration spoke about the absence of co-workers of the deceased, and of company representatives, at the event. According to Brazier, the company stopped participating because they said they were litigated against and therefore would not be part of the commemoration. “As for the co-workers, I’m not sure because it is Ceppawu [Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union] that organises in this workplace,” she said.
Unanswered deaths leave deep pain
The family of the youngest victim of the blast told Elitsha that the death of their young brother left the family in pain and led to a suicide in the family. Bradley Tandy was 19 at the time and his sister, Roseline, described him as a quiet person who always had a smile on his face. “They signed an agreement not to talk about what happens here and he told us that they were not allowed to take their phones in or wear earings when they were working. He used to complain about how cold it was inside the building. He would put on two pants because it was cold,” said Roseline who is two years older than Bradley.
Brendon Tandy said that their younger brother committed suicide one year after Bradley was killed in the explosion. “As a family we did not only lose Bradley. After the death of Bradley, my baby brother did not talk anymore. One day he went to the N2 and threw himself in front of a car. His last words to my other brother is that he misses Bradley,” said Brendon Tandy.
The Sigadla family that was also present at the commemoration said that they have been struggling since the death of their brother. Nomfusi Sigadla who is a sister to the late Mxolisi, said that they tried to get RDM to employ one of their family members since Mxolisi was the breadwinner but it did not happen. Nomfusi said that she has been on anti-depressants since the death of her brother.