Part of the picket at Cape Town's Rheinmetall Denel Munition on Friday. Picture: Supplied
Part of the picket at Cape Town's Rheinmetall Denel Munition on Friday. Picture: Supplied

Families of victims killed in the 2018 Denel explosion demand closure of munitions factory

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Nov 1, 2021

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Cape Town - Family members of the eight people killed in the 2018 explosion at Cape Town’s Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) factory and members of the broader Macassar community have protested at the munitions factory to demand that it be closed down.

Joined by members of the SA Communist Party and Cosatu, as well as World Beyond War South Africa co-ordinator Terry Crawford-Brown and his colleague from World Beyond War Germany, Thomas Siepelmeyer, the pickets presented a memorandum to the RDM management.

A representative of Denel’s legal department accepted the memorandum on the company’s behalf from outgoing PR councillor Rhoda-Ann Bazier (ANC), who called the picket in conjunction with the families.

Bazier said among the demands in the memorandum were that RDM take full responsibility for the explosion and death of the eight workers and the company suspend the operations at the site until the site is declared safe by competent inspectors, but continue to pay workers their full salaries.

Bazier said: “During the inquiry last week we heard evidence that the plant buildings at the RDM site remain very dangerous. In asking for the site to be closed down until it is declared properly safe we are also speaking out on behalf of current workers and their health and safety.”

PART of the picket outside Cape Town’s Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM). | Supplied

In his testimony at the inquiry, structural engineering specialist Stephan Lapage said the designs of the buildings at the site were outdated and could no longer be considered safe.

Meanwhile, trade union Uasa said it was concerned by an application before the courts by Denel to have the Denel Medical Benefit Trust dissolved as well as the proposal to replace the post-retirement medical-aid benefits guaranteed through the trust with individual annuities.

Uasa spokesperson Abigail Moyo said Denel’s proposal means that any excess funds the trust may have after obtaining a group annuity and having made provision for its future expenses, be paid over to Denel to meet its considerable financial obligations.

“This may lead to a potential actuarial shortfall of funds in the trust and potentially leave retired workers who are supposed to benefit in the lurch. In terms of the trust Denel workers who were employed at the company prior to 2002 are contractually entitled to receive post-retirement subsidies in respect of their monthly medical aid contributions to the Discovery Health Medical Scheme,” said Moyo.

She said Denel was now offering an alternative arrangement to retirees, giving them the choice of either retaining their current subsidy or accepting an individual annuity through a group annuity policy that the trust will buy from an insurer, and which will be funded by some of the trust’s assets.

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