For four years, Clive Motha has wanted to know why his son Victor collapsed in the dining room of their Mamelodi house.
Now there is an inquiry into Victor’s death.
But more than a month after the investigation was announced, Motha hasn’t even heard from the investigators. In fact, he learnt about the investigation only from an article in The Star.
‘He was always a brilliant boy'”I haven’t heard from these people as yet,” he said.
On June 30, the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) announced the launch of an independent investigation into allegations – by environmental watchdog organisation Earthlife Africa – that several former employees at the Pelindaba nuclear facility, near Tshwane, were suffering from illnesses caused by radiation and other chemical exposure.
Mogwera Khoathane, the consultant leading the investigation, stressed that the inquest would review both the previous internal and external investigations into Victor’s death.
This week, Khoathane announced the team he had chosen to conduct the investigation. It includes five members: Annanda How, Shaun Guy, Mokgothu Brian Nkonoane, Dr Monde Ntwasa and Professor Barney de Villiers.
While this could finally mean closure for Motha and his family, he does not hold much hope for the investigation.
‘I haven’t heard from these people as yet'”It is just going to be a repeat. They (Necsa) didn’t return calls. Those people ignore you, I tried a lawyer for help, and still nothing,” said Motha.
In fact, Motha is in debt, and he owes his lawyer money.
Victor was fresh out of Pretoria Technikon when he landed a job at Pelindaba. He had a diploma in chemical engineering and was given a contract to work at the nuclear facility.
“He was always a brilliant boy. He used to help others in their studies,” Motha said.
On the day of his death, Victor arrived home from work as usual. He did not tell his father that something out of the ordinary had happened to him that day.
He was eating his dinner when he suddenly started vomiting.
“We rushed him to hospital, and there he died,” Motha said.
Victor’s death certificate, which his father keeps together with a few of his other belongings, states that his death is under investigation.
What Motha has been able to glean over the years about his son’s death was that Victor was exposed to fluorine, a highly toxic gas used to refine uranium.
Apparently 11 other workers who had been on shift with Victor were hospitalised and later discharged.
Shortly after Victor’s death, the Motha family received a letter from then-minister of minerals and energy Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. In it, she promised the family “that no stone will be left unturned in this investigation”.
However, Motha says that is where the correspondence with the department of minerals and energy began and ended.
Simpiwe Msibi, a communications officer contracted to Khoathane, said: “I am not sure when our people will talk to Mr Motha.”