By Michael Chideme and Daniel Nemukuyu
Police have opened investigations into last week’s delivery of a poisonous chemical to Harare’s main waterworks. The law enforcement agents sent a docket to the Attorney General’s Office for advice on how best to proceed with the matter.
The AG’s Office will determine the appropriate charges that those responsible for the boob would face.
A senior officer from the AG’s Office, Mr Morgan Dube, yesterday confirmed receiving the docket. He said there was a chain of people linked to the case and that the office required time to study the papers before deciding its next move.
“Yes, I confirm that the docket has reached our office and we are still going through it,” said Mr Dube. “We would want to find out who among the many names implicated is culpable and determine the appropriate charge in the circumstances.”
At least 19 tonnes of the deadly sodium cyanide were delivered to Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant on Wednesday last week. But the driver of the truck carrying the deadly chemical raised alarm before workers could off load it into drums in preparation for “treating” water.
The workers were expecting to receive liquid aluminium sulphate water treatment chemical on the day. The opening of the docket comes as more details emerge on the case. The truck carrying the sodium cyanide was clearly marked “poisonous” which observers said was enough to raise attention before it reached Morton Jaffray.
There are also counter-accusations between the clearing agent and the transporter. Harare residents yesterday roundly condemned the delivery, while expressing fear of the disaster that could have ensued if the chemical was used.
Freight World cleared the sodium cyanide at Forbes Border Post, with LA Cargo eventually being tasked with transporting it to Morton Jaffray. Freight World managing director, Mr Felix Nyaruwanga yesterday blamed the mix-up on LA Cargo.
He said the company’s transport manager and the driver were to blame for delivering a wrong chemical to the city. Mr Nyaruwanga labelled the driver “stupid” for having driven a truck that was clearly marked “poisonous” to Morton Jaffray.
“The transporter mixed the paperwork. He put the proof of delivery indicating aluminum sulphate on top of the manifest written sodium cyanide,” he said. “The transport manager did not practise due care. He did not check the proof of delivery which read aluminum sulphate, while the transport manifest read sodium cyanide.”
Asked how the chemical found its way to Morton Jaffray, Mr Nyaruwanga said as clearing agents they process everything electronically and never see the product. “We only deal with documents,” he said. “None of us see the product before it reaches the City of Harare.”
Mr Nyaruwanga said they had shown the police how the documents were swapped. But LA Cargo official Mr Apronis Mupakaviri said the blame should be on Freight World who issued wrong delivery instructions to the driver.
“We sub-contracted the delivery to Astra and the driver was given delivery instructions from Freight World,” he said. Mr Mupakaviri refused to entertain any further questions. Harare residents called for a thorough investigation into the matter.
Mr Callistas Dzamara said: “It was going to be a disaster for Harare that would have affected the majority.” Another resident Kelvin Kajao said the companies responsible should be investigated. “They should be serious with their jobs because thousands of lives could have been lost,” he said.
Some of the residents expressed concern that the whole debacle could have been planned. “From what the driver is saying, it shows that he actually knew that he was carrying a dangerous chemical,” Ms Sarah Mazi said. If sodium cyanide was used, millions of Harare residents could have been put at danger.
Sodium cyanide is a deadly chemical that can exist in various forms, which can be a colourless gas, such as hydrogen cyanide (HCN) or cyanogen chloride (CNCl), or a crystal form such as sodium cyanide (NaCN) or potassium cyanide (KCN).
Hydrogen cyanide, under the name Zyklon B, was once used as a genocidal agent by the Germans during World War II. Poachers use the chemical to lace water points to easily kill animals such as elephants and rhinoceros. The Herald
To help maintain editorial independence Nehanda Radio relies on donations from readers like you. No donation is too small or too big. Help by donating to fund our operations.