Mbabane: They wailed and wailed but in vein as a raging fire of burning sugarcane engulfed them.
This was a heartbreaking story of two supervisors (tindvuna) employed by a sugarcane cutting subcontractor at the Royal Eswatini Sugar Corporation (RES) were burnt after being engulfed by a raging fire while inspecting their duties at RES sugarcane fields. The name of the sugar cane subcontractor cannot be named for ethical reasons.
Admitted in ward 15
Independent News has reliably learnt that the near fatal incident happened on Friday, June 26. According to our well-placed sources, the duo of Lazwi and Mangaliso was rushed to the Mbabane Government Hospital, in a critical condition where upon arrival, there were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where they are recuperating. During the time of compiling this report one of the supervisors was still in the ICU and the other admitted in ward 15.
Information reaching this publication is to the effect that the two were inspecting the cane fields to determine the scope of their sugarcane cutting job before it was burnt in readiness for harvesting.
Independent News learnt through its sources that while the duo was busy inspecting the fields, workers from the other company contracted to burn the sugarcane fields set the fields ablaze, allegedly without following the proper laid down precautionary measures.
Independent News further established that as they were carrying on with their inspection, they decided to go deep through the thicket of the field and that is when the unexpected happened after the field was set alight from all corners. Those in the know say procedurally, before a field could be set alight, there must be proper inspection by trained personnel. The personnel responsible for the field burning should the ring alarm bells and sirens to scare away any fauna that could be inhabiting the field as well as people who might be in the field to escape scorch-free.
Two male individuals
Sources close to the matter alleged that almost all the precautionary procedures were not followed by those who were responsible to burn the fields and were unaware that there were people in the field; as a result, they burned the field. An official at the hospital who pleaded to comment on condition of anonymity because she is not mandated to speak to the media confirmed that there were two male individuals who were admitted to the hospital about two weeks are go, adding that they are being treated for severe burn wounds at the ICU but later on, one of them was transferred to Ward 15. However, due to hospital visit ban by government following the Covid-19 outbreak, Independent News was prevented from entering the hospital premises. Efforts of speaking to a relative of one of the sufferers were fruitful as confirmed that she was indeed in hospital taking care of the two, Lwazi and Mangaliso.
Responding to questions from this publication Royal Eswatini Corporations Corporate Affairs Manager, Sifiso Nyembe acknowledged the incident saying investigations of the cause of the incident were ongoing. Nyembe stated that “All relevant structures are currently engaged in investigations, including the police. RES Corporation has also instituted its own investigation which is currently in progress”.
Investigations are currently ongoing as we are doing our best to determine what really happened.
Asked whether all safety and precautionary measures followed before starting the fire, Nyembe stated that it will be after the findings from investigations that will determine whether or not the precautions were followed.
“That is precisely what we are currently determining in our investigations. Our investigations will include a total review of the safety procedure, because our interest is to find out what happened and also ensure that this does not happen”. “As a company, Nyembe said the incident was disappointing they have had a good safety record since the last few years. He said they were doing all within their means to comply with all the safety standards. Nyembe said the company have put in strict measures to ensure that incidents, such as this, do not take place. “We are therefore extremely concerned that this has happened and we’d like to assure our stakeholders of our commitment to getting to the bottom of the matter, so that there is full accountability and it doesn’t happen again in the future. We wish a speedy and full recovery of the two injured individuals, He said.
It has been years since workplace related accidents at RES has been reported. The recent one was reported in august 2014 where a female employee employed a s a bagger in the Mhlume sugar mill was chasing after a piece of paper that was floating towards the conveyor belts used during the crystallization stage of the sugar when her clothing got attached to the machinery. “Her arm was stuck in the machine as she tried to retrieve the paper and it was crushed by the conveyer belts and was completely detached from her body. The employee was reported to have died from excessive bleeding after losing her arm. In 2012, an employee went missing for three weeks and it was established that he had died within the mill after pieces of his flesh were discovered attached to parts of the company’s production machinery. It was reported that Lucky Sifundza went missing from his workplace at Mhlume Sugar Mill on May 23, 2012, shortly after clocking in for the 6pm shift and it was speculated that he had been killed by the ‘milling train’.
Discussion about this post