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DA wants answers on UPL warehouse fire from committee

THE DA has sent 17 questions to the chairperson of the Joint Operations Committee following the UPL warehouse fire. File picture

THE DA has sent 17 questions to the chairperson of the Joint Operations Committee following the UPL warehouse fire. File picture

Published Aug 23, 2021

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DURBAN - THE National Assembly has scheduled three hybrid plenary sittings which will focus on the recent unrest and public violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The sittings on Tuesday and on Wednesday will consider oversight committee reports on the unrest and public violence in the two provinces last month, while Thursday’s sitting will focus on various portfolio committee reports.

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Meanwhile, DA eThekwini councillor Rory Macpherson said on Sunday that the party had written to Joint Operations Committee chairperson Sabelo Ngcobo regarding the impact caused by the United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) warehouse fire, as a result of the continued limiting of information regarding the disaster.

The committee was set up to investigate, direct and communicate updates on the UPL disaster.

The committee is made up of the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, the provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, the Department of Water and Sanitation, eThekwini Municipality and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Macpherson said they prepared a list of questions for Ngcobo, who is also a provincial government official.

He said they believed that the public had a right to see the dated original manifesto which listed the UPL chemicals and pesticides that were stored and what water tests were called for, along with the original test results after the fire.

“This prolonged evasiveness forms the backbone of why the DA is forcing Mr Sabelo to provide answers to the 17 urgent questions now sent to him,” Macpherson said.

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He said depending on Ngcobo’s answers, or lack thereof, they would consult stakeholders on the way forward.

Macpherson said the DA not only raised alarm bells over the lack of co-operation from local and provincial authorities, but had also spearheaded the urgent communication to surrounding residents, hotels and various sporting organisations, warning of a potentially catastrophic incident unfolding. Their regular messages led to the closure of beaches and uMhlanga lagoon, and reluctant intervention from the authorities.

“In the ensuing weeks, it became clear that important information required from the authorities and UPL was not going to be forthcoming, which has since led to a breakdown in trust between affected residents, businesses, hotels, tourism associations, neighbouring schools and users of the beach and lagoon areas,” Macpherson said.

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He said it further begged belief that UPL was directed to conduct its own sampling test as to what levels of toxins entered the lagoon and ocean, and that no governmental or independent authority did their own sampling.

“In the interest of public health and safety and the tourism and hospitality industry, which is haemorrhaging visitors due to beach closures, the DA has consulted with relevant and legal stakeholders as to what answers are now of a very urgent nature,” Macpherson said.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace Africa volunteer Desiree Laverne said UPL’s history was tainted with negligence. “They had a history of pollution accidents, environmental violations, illegal dumping of toxic waste, and even workers’ deaths. They have been fined for operating without valid authorisation in the past. They are just another company interested in putting profit over people, and they need to be dealt with as such.”

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A petition by Greenpeace Africa volunteers to hold UPL accountable can be signed on Vuma.Earth https:// bit.ly/3suuvks

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DACivil Unrest

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