This past Christmas Eve marked one year since the death of 41 people, including 12 health-care workers, who died in the gas tanker explosion in Boksburg on December 24, 2022.
Early this month, Gauteng MEC for Health and Wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko paid tribute to the 12 health workers, including 11 nurses and a driver, during the unveiling of a wall of remembrance at the hospital.
According to Independent Media, the 32-year-old driver of the gas tanker who was arrested and charged with culpable homicide was later released and the case was dropped due to insufficient evidence.
During her address to guests gathered at the unveiling, Nkomo-Ralehoko said the unveiling of the wall served as a solemn tribute to the selfless public servants who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, adding that their contribution will never be forgotten.
“They are gone, but they will never be forgotten. This memorial stands as a reflection of the remarkable resilience and solidarity that have brought us together in the wake of such a devastating tragedy. It serves not only as a place of remembrance, but also as a symbol of our commitment to continue their legacy of care and compassion. In their memory, we renew our dedication to serving our community with the same selflessness and strength they exemplified every day,” Nkomo-Ralehoko said.
However, for some of the victims who are not health workers, picking up the pieces has been hard.
This week, as families marked the year since the death of their loved ones, EWN reported that some of the victims feel neglected after their lives were altered for the worse by the explosion.
Elvis and Bernadine Philander, who are both survivors of the blast, told EWN of their continued suffering after sustaining third-degree burns to most of their upper and lower bodies, while Rosetta Brits, who lost four children in the deadly explosion, told SABC News that the journey of healing has been hard.
“I got stronger because I spoke to them and asked them and wanted to know what’s going on, and then they said, Mom, go on; don’t worry about us; we are at a place better than on earth,” Brits said.
In a statement, the Gauteng provincial government says support was offered with most of the support coming in the form of repairs to some of the affected properties and medical help and food parcels.
But speaking to the “Saturday Star” on Thursday, Gauteng government spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said efforts were made to ensure support is given to the victims of the blast which included psycho-social support and repair to the affected houses, including cost of burials within and outside the country.
“It’s not true that nothing was done for the victims of the blast. A lot was done as other departments worked with the provincial government to ensure that the victims were assisted with various support interventions. Together with the NGOs and various other departments, costs to bury loved ones were covered as well as repatriation of bodies of affected foreign nationals was negotiated by the SA government and embassies of their countries,” he said.
Pamla said there has been an expectation that victims would be financially compensated, which was impossible as the government has limited resources.
“I think there has been an expectation that victims would be financially compensated, but this would have been impossible as the government does not have the financial means to do so, and unlike the Road Accident Fund, which has the mechanisms to do that, government is unable to financially compensate victims,” he said.