Ammunition testing resumes at deadly RDM blast site

Relatives mourn following the deaths of 8 people in a munitions blast at the Denel factory in Somerset West. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)
Relatives mourn following the deaths of 8 people in a munitions blast at the Denel factory in Somerset West. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Ammunition testing at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition plant in Firgrove, east of Cape Town, resumed for the first time on Monday, just a week after eight people were killed in an explosion.

The workers had been part of the company's propellant blending operation, when the building they were in disintegrated in the explosion last Monday afternoon.

The cause of the blast was still being investigated by the police, the labour department and an independent contractor.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition CEO Norbert Schulze said that he understood that residents in the area were still traumatised, and that they had to make every effort to be sensitive to heightened fears.

"The community may hear some noise resulting from the munition testing which will be carried out on our dedicated testing site and I want them to know that these sounds are normal and that they should not be alarmed," he said.

"We are all still mourning a great loss to our community and need to support each other during this time, so as a company we are making extra efforts to be inclusive with the community about what’s going on at our site."

He said the names of those who had died would only be released once the identification process was completed and after consultation with the affected families.

The company is a partnership between Rheinmetall and Denel, established in 2008, with Rheinmetall holding a 51% share and Denel being the minority shareholder with 49%.

State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan last week visited the National Key Point to be briefed and to offer their condolences.

"There are various scenarios and the investigation process will explore each possibility," Gordhan said after his visit last week.

A long row of flowers lined the front wall of the company as people paid their respects during Gordhan's visit.

A memorial service was held for the victims over the weekend.

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