22 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Cyanide Was Not Cleared

The sodium cyanide that was delivered at Morton Jaffray Water Works in July was not cleared by environmentalists at Forbes Border Post where it passed through, an official has said. This was said by Environmental Management Authority province manager Mr Kingston Chitotombe who was speaking at the start of a trial of four people accused of delivering the poison to the water works.

Simon Demhe, a truck driver at Astra Transport in Bulawayo, his manager Farai Muchenje, Appronalise Mupakaviri of CureChem and Tiki Tarwirei, a clearing agent, are accused of contravening sections of the Water Act and the Environmental Management Act. They appeared before Harare magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya. Demhe and Muchenje are on US$1 500 bail each, while Tarwirei and Mupakaviri are on US$1 000 bail each.

Mr Chitotombe said the transporter should have reported to EMA offices at the border.

"The consignment was not cleared by our offices on its way from Beira and it is a known requirement for chemicals that come into the country. It is the transporter's role to pass by the EMA offices before being checked at the boom gates which monitor compliance."

Mr Chitotombe said the truck was supposed to be labelled and escorted to show it contained dangerous chemicals. The truck was supposed to be escorted from the border post.

The quartet's lawyer Mr Nicholas Chikono argued that Mr Chitotombe's testimony was meant to defend the incompetence of EMA.

He said it was baffling that Zimra officers dealt with the truck, yet EMA was not around to do the same.

City of Harare quality assurance manager Mr Teddy Mafuko, a witness in the case, said the sodium cyanide could have instantly killed employees at Morton Jaffray.

"Apart from our employees, the chemical could have killed at least three million residents from Chitungwiza, Ruwa, Norton and Epworth," he said.

Harare loss control officer Mr Patson Mukashu said Demhe tendered a delivery note stating the consignment had 25 000 kilograms of aluminium sulphate.

"Nothing was written on the truck to state contents inside," he said.

Prosecutor Mr Michael Reza alleged that on July 16 Demhe left Beira, Mozambique, for Zimbabwe with a CureChem Overseas Private Ltd consignment of 19 580kg of sodium cyanide.

He said the consignment was cleared into Zimbabwe by Zimra only at Forbes Border Post.

The cyanide was eventually delivered to Morton Jaffray.

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