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