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RDM unveils memorial wall, garden

Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) commemorated the first anniversary of the fatal blast which claimed the lives of eight of its employees with the private unveiling of a newly built memorial wall and garden of remembrance on Tuesday morning (3 September).

The memorial wall and garden were officially opened by outgoing RDM CEO Norbert Schulze, with assistance from incumbent CEO Jan-Patrick Helmsen.

It is designed to burnish forever in the collective memory the names of those killed in the blast and employees injured while on duty at RDM.

It was the final official duty of Schulze, who retired on 30 August, as he hands the reins to Helmsen.

Those attending the unveiling at the Denel site were bereaved family members and staff members, who also observed a minute of silence.

In a media statement released on the day, Helsmsen said: “As colleagues, we mourn with the families and friends of those we have lost. RDM staff requested that a memorial event be planned to enable everyone to observe the first anniversary of the tragedy. The garden of remembrance and memorial wall is the result – a permanent place of refuge providing a spot for reflection and meditation, which is open to all.”

Among various tree and plant choices in the memorial garden is a lily magnolia tree, which symbolises perseverance and love, a palm tree, signifying life after death and unification, and an evergreen Cape holly, which represents eternal life.

The focal point of the garden is the memorial stone wall with its black granite plaque engraved with the words “In memory of our dedicated colleagues. Your lives and contributions will never be forgotten.” Seating in the garden is also provided.

Ruby Maree, RDM’s public relations officer, said two books were filled with messages of condolence at the site since the incident. The books have been removed from reception for safekeeping to prevent damage.

Maree confirmed RDM is still awaiting the outcome of investigations by the Department of Labour and the police. She said RDM’s own investigation, launched with external support, to identify the cause of the blast is ongoing.

“We will share all information and be transparent about all findings as soon as the final results are available.”

Maree added the company’s highest priority continues to be providing assistance and support to the bereaved families. “RDM continues to provide trauma counselling and tailored support for the families and all staff. This support is ongoing and remains available.

“RDM has supported the families financially from the beginning by covering out-of-pocket expenses for visits during the mourning period, as well as taking over the costs of funeral services. We have also been providing additional and long-term financial support for families since November 2018.”

The unveiling was followed by a memorial tree planting ceremony in Eland Street, opposite the site.

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