For The People

16 Years of Famine for the Saulpoort Dam Tragedy

DA Premier candidate, Andrew Louw, came together with families who lost loved ones in the Saulspoort Dam tragedy as well as at the Homevale gassing incident, to lay criminal charges against Sol Plaatje senior manager and former acting Municipal Manager, Ruth Sebolecwe on the morning of May day at the Transvaal road police station, now known as Phakamile Mabija street.

The DA believes that Sebolecwe has been withholding payments to families of deceased municipal workers, including the Saulspoort Dam victims and the Homevale 5, while a fund of over R66 million exists for this purpose within Sol Plaatje. The R66 million earns interest of R3 million a month which is suspected to be benefiting connected cadres.

“It is troubling that between seven and sixteen long years later, families have yet to find closure and continue to get the cold shoulder from Sol Plaatje Municipality, where their husbands and fathers worked for many years. In effect, many of these families have yet to receive the full financial benefits due to them. This deeply troubles the Democratic Alliance,” said Louw.

Cynthia (18) and Mershia (25) Riddles’ father passed away in the Saulpoort tragedy in 2003, leaving them destitute. The two now survive with the disability grant received by Mershia, which they complain, is not enough. Cynthia wants to rewrite her grade 12 with the hopes of studying further to improve the situation she and her sister find themselves in.

“We hope and believe that the DA will help us resolve this issue as they are the only people who noticed our struggles,” said the sisters.

The MEC of Education, Martha Bartlett, personally committed to helping Cynthia, not because of what happened to her father but because she has a vision and wants to further her studies.

Deceased Monnapule Johnson, Kgatlaitsile’s daughter, pleads with Sebolecwe to sign out the monies.
In response, municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie stated that it was sad that, after so long, the DA was only interested in this case now.

“We see this as an election gimmick and opportunistic of them. All money legally due to all the rightful beneficiaries of our deceased employees and those they nominated was paid out.

“Unfortunately there are those who found themselves in limbo, for example those who were co-habituating or not married at the time of the incident, who had no legal standing to claim benefits. They are free to approach courts but such claims should be directed to the relevant pension fund, not the Sol Plaatje Municipality.”

Matsie explained further that these funds were not held by the municipality but by the pension fund chosen by the employee concerned. “In the case of accidents, the legitimate institutions are the Road Accident and Workman’s Compensation Fund, which we contribute towards as an organisation”.

However, we condemn any insinuation of malice especially when funds were paid out by third parties.
51 Sol Plaatje workers and SAMWU members died tragically on the 1st of May 2003, when the bus carrying them to a rally in Qwaqwa plunged into the Saulspoort Dam, near Bethlehem. It was later revealed at a judicial inquest into the tragedy at the Bloemfontein High Court, that the accident could have been prevented if the vehicle’s brakes complied with minimum specifications.

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