Cape Town – The family of a City of Cape Town employee who drowned in a pond of sewage at a treatment plant fear they may never know the truth about what transpired.
It has been two weeks since Cecil Esterhuizen, 52, drowned at Wildevoelvlei sewage treatment plant in Noordhoek while on duty.
It took over six hours to retrieve the body after private divers were called in to assist.
Chief Inspector David Esau confirmed an investigation was underway after the incident was reported in terms of occupational safety laws.
Esau said if any serious findings were made the matter would be referred to the National Prosecuting Authority.
The Esterhuizen family now demand answers, as they have been robbed of a “loving son, brother, husband and father”.
“If the City honoured Cecil, then the best way to show that is to give us the truth. Hiding the truth will be an injustice. All we have heard so far are rumours about unsafe railings,” the family said.
Cecil was described by his sisters as someone who was dedicated to his job, family, church and who lead the brass band which won him several trophies.
“We are hurting… we’ve lost our beloved brother but the pain caused by the way the City handled this is unbearable. Not a single person or official contacted the family on the day of the incident to inform us about what happened. My mother, Betty who is 83, was sitting in her house when a fellow church member walked in to tell her that her son had died.
“Some of us heard through people who had seen the news on social media, others from friends or relatives. Cecil’s wife was not contacted either, she had to take an Uber to her husband’s workplace to find out,” said devastated sister Kathleen Esterhuizen.
No professional counselling had been provided for the family.
A mayoral committee member visited Cecil’s mother two days after his funeral, with a bunch of flowers.
The family spoke of how Cecil wasn’t given long to live as a baby after he had meningitis which affected his speech.
“At the age of 18 he returned his disability grant card to authorities as he wanted to earn a living through working. He found a job with the City, where he dedicated over three decades of his life. He went beyond the call of his duties and had to be forced to take annual leave,” Kathleen said.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has also called for the truth. “If safety has been compromised at the expense of employees, then there must be consequences,” said regional secretary, Xolile Ncayo.
He said the union had previously brought to the attention of the city workers’ complaints and concerns on safety conditions at work.
The incident has also brought to the fore occupational health and workplace safety issues and compliance at the plant.
Earlier this year, in a separate investigation, the public protector had found that the manager for engineering & asset management branch in the Water and Sanitation Department was not qualified for the job and advised that he be shifted to a lesser job.
The City had not yet implemented the remedial action.