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Sewage hell: SACP calls for action

Johannesburg - The working conditions of Sol Plaatje municipal workers in Kimberley must be improved, the SA Communist Party said on Wednesday.

Four workers apparently tried to save a colleague trapped at an overflowing pump station at Kimberley's sewerage works. While their colleague succumbed to the methane gas fumes, the four workers then also became trapped in the rising sludge and died after rescue bids failed. Photo: Johnnie van Niekerk. Credit: DFA

“This was vital to build a motivated workforce at Sol Plaatje,” said SACP spokesman in the Northern Cape, Tshepo Mogorosi.

Mogorosi sent condolences to the families of workers who died this week in a gas accident in the municipality's waste water plant.

He said the municipality should account for the death of workers.

“Those who are found to be responsible in relation to this utter negligence must face the full might of the law.”

Five municipal workers were killed at the Homevale waste water treatment plant on Tuesday afternoon.

One of the workers was cleaning the pump house when sludge came out of one of the monitors in the room and filled the room to a height of about 1.5m. The worker was apparently overcome by methane gas.

Municipal spokesman Sello Matsie said it appeared other workers tried to rescue him, but were also overcome by the gas.

He said the accident was now subject to various investigations by different state departments, the police and the municipality.

On Wednesday, The Star reported that workers at the plant were traumatised and no longer willing to work at the pump station, which they called a “death trap”.

They pointed out that safety checks were rarely conducted and felt their lives were in danger.

Matsie did not want to speculate on the cause of death.

“There is a machine that monitors the gas levels inside the pump house. We do not want to speculate on the cause of death and will allow the department of labour to determine the exact chain of events,” he was quoted as saying.

“There are plans in place, in conjunction with the department of environmental affairs, to refurbish the plant. There is normally strict adherence to safety.”

The Congress of the People (Cope) described the incident as a tragedy affecting the entire country.

“Despite the devastation, we need to remain courageous and offer our support to the people of Kimberley in order to enable them to overcome the cruel consequences of the disaster,” spokeswoman Beryl Ferguson said. - Sapa

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