HEARTACHE

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - FRONT PAGE - Dave Sa­vides

WHEN his mother heard the tragic news last Wed­nes­day morn­ing that her son and fam­ily bread­win­ner had been found dead on the floor of the Foskor plant, she col­lapsed in a heap.

Equally dev­as­tated at the sud­den pass­ing of Mduduzi Clif­ford Mthembu (35), an ar­ti­san in the In­stru­men­ta­tion sec­tion, is his griev­ing wife Siziwe, who with their two young chil­dren faces a dire fu­ture.

The de­ceased’ sis­ter told of the mis­ery the fam­ily was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing as they wait in the dark for word on what ac­tu­ally hap­pened, and on the pain of de­lay in pro­ceed­ing with fu­neral for­mal­i­ties. ‘This hap­pened last week Wed­nes­day (28 Novem­ber) and a week later we still have no death cer­tifi­cate,’ said Ngiphile Mthembu.

‘I took the fam­ily to the Richards Bay mor­tu­ary on Tues­day morn­ing be­cause we were told the post mortem would be done then, only to dis­cover Mdu’s body had been sent to a foren­sic spe­cial­ist in Dur­ban, so we are still await­ing the out­come,’ she told the Zu­l­u­land Ob­server yes­ter­day (Wed­nes­day) af­ter­noon.

Trust­ing that the death cer­tifi­cate will be is­sued by then, the fu­neral has been set for this Satur­day at Somkele.

Foskor will hold a staff me­mo­rial ser­vice to­day (Thurs­day) at the plant.

While the in­ci­dent is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Depart­ment of Labour and the SAPS, the ZO can con­firm that staff at a nearby com­pany had logged com­plaints of strong acid smells ear­lier that morn­ing – which may prove un­re­lated to the in­ci­dent.

Trade union NUMSA also is­sued a state­ment of con­cern over ‘high acid­ity lev­els’ at the plant.

The fam­ily spokesper­son con­firmed Mthembu had been in ex­cel­lent health and doubted he had died of nat­u­ral causes.

With­out pre-empt­ing the out­come of the post mortem, Foskor knows it will be un­der close scru­tiny given its past his­tory of se­ri­ous in­ci­dents on site.

In a state­ment is­sued on Wed­nes­day, Foskor re­it­er­ated that the cause of death re­mains un­known, pend­ing a pro­nounce­ment by an in­de­pen­dent patho­log­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

‘We have es­tab­lished a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary task team to in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing Mr Mthembu’s death.

The re­sult of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion will as­sist us to en­sure that we do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to avoid a re­cur­rence of such an in­ci­dent,’ said Foskor CEO, Ufik­ile Khu­malo.

‘A pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Depart­ment of Labour into this mat­ter en­ables us to con­tinue op­er­a­tions at the plant.

‘As part of stake­holder en­gage­ment ini­tia­tives, we con­tinue to en­gage af­fil­i­ate trade unions just so we en­sure that all em­ploy­ees - in­clud­ing their rea­son­able con­cerns on health and safety - are ad­dressed.’

Acid plant death leaves trail of pain for fam­ily

Mdudzi Clif­ford Mt­thembu (35) died at the acid plant a week ago

Siziwe Mthembu, the wife of the de­ceased, and the cou­ple's son Wandile (3) and daugh­ter Ziyanda (1) are left with­out their providerSup­plied

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