It has been more than two years since a massive flood of pesticides and other toxic chemical residue spilt from a warehouse to poison fish, soil, air, water and the marine environment north of Durban. Yet there is no indication that the UPL group will be appearing in court any time soon to face criminal charges.
The Mumbai-based company – the fifth largest agrochemicals company in the world after Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta and BASF – has argued from the outset that it was a victim of deliberate arson at the height of the July 2021 riots.
The company’s security measures and “state-of-the-art safety features” at its brand-new Cornubia chemical warehouse were simply overwhelmed. Large volumes of water used by firefighters also caused toxic chemicals to “overrun catchment devices”, the company said in a statement five days after the chemical leak and explosion.
In other words, it was just one of those very unfortunate incidents and the company was not to blame.
But that was not the view held by many members of the public – or the Green Scorpions (the government’s special environmental management inspectorate) which presented a criminal docket to the Director of Public Prosecutions on 20 June 2022.
It is understood that the case docket recommends the prosecution of UPL on a range of criminal charges in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema), the National Water Act, the Major Hazard Installation Regulations and other laws or regulations.
Yet more than a year after the docket was finalised, the National Prosecuting Authority has…