Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan talks to chief executive of Rheinmetall Munition Norbert Schulze during a visit to the Somerset West factory. Tracey Adams African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Three separate entities are investigating the cause of the deadly explosion where eight people lost their lives at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition factory this week.

Speaking at a press briefing in Macassar yesterday, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said while the cause of the explosion was still unknown, investigations were being conducted by the SAPS, the Department of Labour and independent investigators employed by Rheinmetall Denel Munition.

“The investigation is being done by various entities so we might have an independent view of what might have caused the explosion.”

He said he believed it could take months before the cause of the explosion was determined and called for calm while investigations were under way.

Gordhan said between Tuesday and Thursday next week proper identification of the people who were killed would be made through forensic DNA testing; however, their names would not be released to respect their families’ wishes.

In addition to the trauma counselling taking place at the company over the next 10 days, Rheinmetall Denel Munition will also hold reflection and prayer sessions for staff.

“Black armbands will be worn from Monday in honour of those who lost their lives,” said Gordhan.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition is jointly owned by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition of Germany and Denel Pty Ltd of South African. The company employs over 2 000 people, 650 of whom are employed at the Macassar site.

The explosion in one of the 400 buildings at the depot was felt up to 30km away and according to Norbert Schulze, CEO of Rheinmetall Munition, production was stopped for one day.

He said investigations were under way but the building had been completely destroyed along with much of the evidence.

“We strongly feel that, in the interests of transparency and accountability, we must leave no stone unturned to determine what happened and why.”

Chairperson for Denel Monhla Hlahla offered her condolences and said she understood the sadness the country was facing.

“No one anticipated an incident like this would have happened,” she said. “Once we are done mourning we can create a legacy for these sons of the soil.”

On Thursday a memorial service for the eight who died was held at the St Joseph the Worker Anglican Church, where Mayor Patricia de Lille called for the factory to be moved away from communities.

Gordhan was the first to sign the book of condolences which has been placed in the Somerset West company’s reception area.

Weekend Argus