UPDATE: UP mourners uncertain about workers’ safety

Makoma Moeti sobs as she listens to speakers talk about her brother’s death at a memorial service held at the Dutch Reformed church on Friday, 10 November 2017.

Questions about workplace safety at the University of Pretoria were raised at a memorial service after
the tragic death of staff member, Mokhithi Moeti (25).

Moeti died after he was pulled into a wood chipper machine while on duty at the university on Monday.

Academic Professional Staff Association (APSA) general secretary Dr. Boitumelo Senokoane asked why
safety precautions weren’t put in place.

“Why did Moeti have to die first for the university and contracted company Servest to realise the harsh
conditions under which some of their employees worked?” he asked.

The memorial service was held at the Dutch Reformed Church in Hatfield on Friday.

The accident took place while Moeti and a co-worker were shredding wood into smaller pieces on the
university’s LC De Villiers campus.

Co-worker and eye witness Mulisa Mabudafhasi (26) said he had turned around to fetch more wood to
put into the machine when he turned around and realised his partner’s glove had hooked onto the
machine.

“Before I knew it he was being pulled into the machine and I couldn’t stop it,” he explained.

Mabudafhasi said he could not switch the machine off as university authorities had locked the panel
from which the switch could be controlled.

“What they usually do is turn the machine on in the morning, lock the switch panel and leave it like that.

The key is never with us and we cannot turn the machine off without it,” he said

He explained that staff members were given only a day’s training on how to operate a machine that
needed at least six qualified people to operate.

Operating the machine requires high levels of concentration and having only two people operating it
was a risk, he said.

Mabudafhasi told Rekord that he reported these issues to his managers on several occasions and no
attention was paid to the issue.

“I was always told to just follow instructions and stop being insubordinate. I am traumatized. I will never
forget this.”

Family representative Patrick Mufamadi said they were struggling to come to terms with Moeti’s death.

“We are shattered. We still have not come to terms with what has happened because we do not have a
proper body. All we have left to bury is his dust.”

UP SRC President, Kwena Moloto sent a message of condolences to the Moeti family.

According to Mufamadi, Moeti’s body reduced to the size of a plastic bag.

The family said it requested the university to employ one of Moeti’s sisters.

“He was a bread winner; there is no salary anymore. He left behind his unemployed grandmother and
sisters, so the university must tell us what it will do about that.”

Student Representative Council president Kwena Moloto said the accident was an indication of how far
the institution still had to go in addressing workplace safety issues.

Rekord was told that the university refused to speak at the memorial and that mourners were not
allowed to use any university property for the service.

The university said it was waiting for a final report from the police and the department of labour.

“Servest and UP will also continue to support Mokhithi’s family, friends and colleagues,” they said in a
statement. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with all of them.”

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  AUTHOR
Noxolo Sibiya

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