Denel says no blast at Cape Town munitions factory, damage indicates fire

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The image shows the result of a suspected explosion at the Denel site in Macassar.
The image shows the result of a suspected explosion at the Denel site in Macassar.
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  • Rheinmetall Denel Munition believes last week's incident at its Cape Town plant was caused by a fire, not a blast.   
  • The company said that although it had not had access to the fire site for much of the week, it did not think there was a detonation. 
  • There was no loud bang or pressure wave to indicate that there was a blast. 


Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) says last week's huge flare seen in Macassar, Cape Town, was a fire, not an explosion.

The company said that although it had not had access to the fire site for much of the week, it did not think there was a detonation at the N86 storage facility. 

"While the exact circumstances surrounding the events of Sunday night are still under investigation, we know that there was no detonation, loud bang or pressure wave," the company said in response to questions. 

The company added that the nature and the quantity of the items stored there resulted in extensive burning, which may have caused the flare. 

"The building itself has also sustained minor damage to the roof and the windows, while the walls remain intact, which points to the cause being a fire."

It insisted that all the items were stored per the building licence issued by the Department of Labour.

READ | Denel munitions plant safety questioned following explosion

The company said:

RDM remains fully operational, although the building where the fire occurred remains closed as investigations into the cause continue.

Trade union UASA and trade union federation Cosatu and the SACP expressed deep concern about plant safety, along with the Greater Macassar Civic Association. 

On 3 September 2018, eight people died in a massive blast at the site. 

Nico Angelo Samuels, Stevon Robert Isaacs, Mxolisi Sigadla, Bradley Tandy, Jamie Lesley Haydricks, Jason Hartzenberg, Triston Lance David and Thandolwethu Mankayi were killed. 

READ | 'Always remember these fine men' – munitions blast families, friends mourn

An inquiry into what caused the tragedy is not yet complete. 

The company believes its safety controls are rigorously in line with international standards, in some cases exceeding them.

This included certifications, complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, being audited and tested by the labour and environmental affairs departments. 

"We collaborate with the Department of Employment and Labour on a weekly basis to ensure alignment with standards, and at our Somerset West site, we currently have 80 full-time team members whose sole responsibility is safety."

They also belong to SAFEX - a global industry association focused on the safe use of explosives. 

But this was cold comfort to SACP and Cosatu, who want the company's explosives licence suspended while the investigation was under way. 

RDM said on Friday they had not had any discussions with the community representatives regarding the shutting down of their site and was unaware that they wanted to have the site closed. It had only seen reports about it in the media.

The company said:

Our licence has not been suspended.

It is the official and primary munitions supplier for the SA National Defence Force, the SA Police Service and is a supplier to the mining industry. 

It also manufactures 11 000 ton/year of aluminium sulphate, a key ingredient in keeping water supplies clean.

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