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Five Denel explosion victims were still in training

File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 5, 2021


Cape Town – Employee competency came under the spotlight at day two of the Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) public inquiry yesterday, with an officer testifying that some of those who died still required relevant training.

The evidence was given by training officer, Mcebisi Ngqaqu, who has 21 years of experience working for RDM.

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He testified that of the eight employees who died, five still had red arm bands, which were for employees who still required training.

Following the testimony, the families’ representative, Winston Erasmus, then asked why were the “incompetent” employees were “allowed to work with explosives and not given something safer”.

Ngqaqu, who is also responsible for compiling the questionnaire which tests employee competency to work on a particular plant, referred the question to the company.

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“Nico Samuels was the supervisor of all the buildings, and there are team leaders or supervisors for every team and for this particular team (Robert) Isaacs was the team leader.

“I assign the competent person to train the employees… then they use the questionnaire as a test to check the competency of the employee and whether they are sticking to what they have been trained to do.”

It also came to light at the inquiry that at the time of the explosion, Samuels had gone to assist the team as there was an unexplained pressure and an emergency, which also resulted in the team working overtime.

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Another employee, Baxolele Maphela, said that Ngqaqu trained employees only on safety but didn't cover all the products.

“From August last year until now I have only received the induction training.

“I am still a red arm band employee. which means that I am still a trainee operator and not yet competent.”

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Maphela testified that during his time with the company, only the team leader conducts inspection of the machinery and does not recall any other inspector coming to check the machinery for safety.

When speaking to the Cape Times, Samuels’ widow, Lawrencia, said that her husband lived for his job and he would leave whatever he was doing just to go to work when called.

She said he seemed worried the weekend before the incident as a new valve was installed and said he didn't understand why because the previous one was “working just fine”.

In giving testimony, maintenance manager Mustapha Salie said: “A new valve was installed on August 31, 2018, it was tested and when testing was completed it was signed off.”

Salie said the new valve was bigger than the previous one, he however couldn’t confirm whether it was used at the plant from the day it was installed until the day of the incident.

The inquiry continues today.

Cape Times

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