SUMMARY: The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is blaming lacking government regulation for the recent deaths and injuries caused by the explosion of a gas tanker truck in Ekurhuleni outside Johannesburg. The Union feels that government must do more to ensure that hazardous materials are not transported through residential areas and that when it is unavoidable, such vehicles should be escorted by law enforcement with the proper precautions taken. The Union proposes that government must put in place compulsory installation of collision avoidance technology in trucks and commercial vehicles, in order to avoid such incidents.
On Christmas Eve, 24 December 2022 a gas tanker exploded in a Boksburg suburb close to a hospital, and fifteen (15) people were killed while several others were injured. According to reports, the driver was on its way to Botswana from Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal and somehow found himself in this area. The details in this regard are still sketchy, but it is reported that the driver will be charged with culpable homicide, for the deaths which include hospital workers and children.
“This accident was caused by failure of authorities,” said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “It is clear that this horrendous incident could have been avoided, and the government must take full responsibility for this catastrophe. Gas tanker routes have to be planned in advance to ensure the trip can be carried out safely, and in this case, it is clear that this was not done properly,” Mathunjwa added.
“The first responsibility of the police and the fire brigade was to evacuate the area where this tanker had to travel, and clearly this was not done either. The question must be asked whether the driver was declared competent to transport such a volatile load such as gas,” Mathunjwa said.
“As AMCU, we have been saying for many years that this country is on autopilot – even when was not fashionable to say it. We have continually pointed out that most of our problems come from lacking government regulation,” said Mathunjwa.
“This country is a banana republic, where almost anybody can do as he or she pleases, without any fear of being arrested. Why do we see these trucks carrying such dangerous material, travelling through communities and town without any police escorts”, Mathunjwa asked.
“We can say without any fear of contradiction that we are a failed state. Almost every month people are killed – if it is not a massacre it is such horrendous accidents which are man-made. If bylaws were properly enforced, this accident would have never happened”, he said.
“The state must prepare itself for potentially massive damages claims with so many people burned and killed through its negligence and failure to ensure law and order,” Mathunjwa said.
“We call for a speedy and thorough investigation into what led to this terrible accident, so that the responsible persons can be brought to justice. This inquiry must be undertaken by competent and independent experts with the requisite skills,” he said.
“There is existing collision avoidance technology which can be used to gauge the height of a bridge or tunnel and bring the vehicle to an automatic halt if it cannot pass through. Government should amend regulations for transport companies to ensure that collision avoidance technology is compulsory for all trucks and commercial vehicles,” said Mathunjwa.
“As AMCU we remain proactive on safety issues and we are very concerned about such avoidable accidents in our country. Government has the task to regulate private industry to ensure that safety is prioritised over the pursuit of profit,” Mathunjwa concluded.
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