Jacoba Mouton puts flowers in front of the gate at Rheinmetall Denel Munition factory following the deadly blast. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ ANA
Jacoba Mouton puts flowers in front of the gate at Rheinmetall Denel Munition factory following the deadly blast. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ ANA

Inquiry gets under way into deadly munitions blast at Rheinmetall Denel

By Athandile Siyo Time of article published May 4, 2021

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Cape Town - Nearly three years after a deadly blast at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) factory killed eight people, the public inquiry got under way in Macassar on Monday, with the panel hearing that “a series of events that led to the most probable cause of the explosion can be reconstructed”.

The week-long inquiry is being chaired by Employment and Labour inspector Mphumzi Dyulete.

Nico Samuels, 41, team leader Stevon Isaacs, 51, operators Mxolisi Sigadla, 40, Bradley Tandy, 19, Jamie Haydricks, 24, Jason Hartzenberg, 22, Triston David, 22, and Thandolwethu Mankayi, 27, were remembered before proceedings got under way.

The inquiry was attended by family members of the eight, and representatives and legal representatives from RMD.

Safety and environment manager Thembeka Ganda took to the stand, saying that there was a plant trainer who runs a system of training that guides employees on what to do and what not to do, and that training was provided yearly.

Ganda was asked to read certain paragraphs of the 28-page internal investigation report, compiled by the multidisciplinary internal team in relation to the explosion.

“A series of events that led to the most probable cause of the explosion can be reconstructed.

“As no employees at the accessing facility at the time survived, some assumption had to be made based on the available evidence, and it will never be known with 100% certainty what exactly happened,” Ganda read.

The report also showed that one sub-lot did not meet the required quality standards; an attempt to rework the material was made by adding extra graphite to the propellant, and in reworking it, due process was not followed.

“A decision was made, reportedly without the knowledge or input of the relevant next line manager, to rework the material reasonably in an effort to ensure that it met the required ballistics specifications.

“The material should, however, either have been rejected at that point, or steps taken to obtain approval to rework in terms of the procedure to address non-conforming materials,” read the report.

The report went on to say that the investigation team did not believe that the result was anticipated or could have been foreseen.

Operator Fernando Jacobs, who was working the morning shift on the day in question – September 3, 2018 – said that employees received training and wrote exams every six months to ensure that they stuck to safety protocol.

He added that one of the employees did not follow protocol in transporting the explosives, and instead used his own vehicle, which was not allowed.

“This was the first time that this had happened. The supervisor was supposed to knock off with us, but had been called to the office during this time.”

Several other witnesses, including the facilities and plant manager, process engineer, explosives manager and the process engineer manager, are expected to give testimony during the course of the week.

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Cape Times

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