Coast KZN

19 May 2021

Community calls for accountability from Engen

Thobele Nzama Picture: Founder of Wentworth Angels, Tracey Williams, wants Engen to account for the community's loss following the Friday, 4 December 2020 explosion.

Community leaders continue to put pressure on Engen to account for damages incurred after the December 2020 explosion.

Six months later, they are accusing the oil company of not prioritising affected communities but using stalling tactics instead. While there seems to be progress with a settlement for Block 10 residents, Tracey Williams, who is a part of the community’s delegates to Engen, said they await confirmation in writing.

“We need them to stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We need justice for our community. Our priority is our community and being good neighbours, the community should also be their priority,” she said.

She further emphasised the reimbursement that Dr Devan Pillay, who was at the front line to treat the community of various ailments on the fateful day, is still outstanding.

“To this very day, Dr Pillay still gets negative responses from Engen regarding his payment. We had met with two representatives from Engen to discuss a way forward.”

“Dr Pillay advised that he will continue to assist those affected by the explosion upon the payment. All we want is for the 4 December 2020 issue to be finalised before any other engagement regarding community leaders working with the company,” she said.

Dr Pillay said his priority following the explosion was to assist and act in the best interest of communities.

“It saddens me that six months down the line we still have no closure on the issue,” he said.

In a joint statement, members of the Merebank Residents’ Association (MRA) Raveen and Daya Naidoo, said Engen disregarded their pleas to have meetings scheduled at a later time of day to accommodate working individuals. They have, however, disregarded this and our next meeting will be at 1 pm. It is a disadvantage because it is an exclusion for some. Some of us have had to resort to taking time off work to make these meetings,” the statement reads.  Another issue they noted was the breaking of communication protocol with Merebank residents. They claimed that Engen now directly speaks with the claimants instead of through the appointed delegates.

“As a result, some residents were paid far less in claims. We now await Friday’s meeting because we need a clear direction. We understand they have plans for the refinery, but we are dealing with people’s lives. As the MRA, we say people first and we will not deviate from that. We will push for the affected residents.”

They also slammed the alleged ill-treatment that Dr Pillay has been given by Engen calling it an “insult” to “this kind humanitarian”.

“They claimed his bill was incorrect. They need to pay this man who was there promptly to see to the affected people. They have treated the doctor in a way that is not professional. But they expect people to be patient, which is an abuse of power,” the statement reads.

The 13 delegates will meet again with the company’s management on Friday, 21 May. Williams said she hopes matters can be finalised and put to rest.

A response from Engen was not available at the time of publication.