Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
24 Nov 2021
4:48 pm

KZN chemical spill: UPL acted negligently, NPA mulling prosecution, Parliament told

Molefe Seeletsa

It has been found that UPL did not have the required compliance certificate.

uMhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve in Durban on 18 July 2021. Picture: AFP/Guillem Sartorio

United Phosphorous Limited (UPL) may be prosecuted for the devastating chemical spill that led to an environmental problem and the closure of several beaches in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Beaches were affected by a toxic spill when UPL’s warehouse in Cornubia, located in the north of Durban, was set alight during the looting, riots and unrest that occurred across KZN in July this year.


On Tuesday, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment presented the UPL’s report findings on a joint preliminary investigation – which looked into the compliance profile of the company – to Parliament.

UPL’s report, which was submitted to the department and the eThekwini Municipality, contains chemical analyses of beaches and sea water conducted in September.

During the briefing, the portfolio committee on environment, forestry and fisheries was informed that preliminary investigation indicated that the UPL was responsible for the fire.

It was also found that UPL did not have the required compliance certificate.

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Barbara Creecy told the committee that the matter has since been reported to the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA).

ALSO READ: UPL chemical spill affects Durban beaches, puts community health at risk

The NPA will then make a decision on whether to prosecute.

The committee, meanwhile, was of the view that there has been no consequence management applied as yet regarding the noncompliance of UPL with the regulatory framework in order to operate its business.

UPL was responsible for the clean-up operation costs and has spent over R247 million.

The company also will have a primary health clinic set up in Umdloti where members of the affected communities can access primary healthcare services.

Arson attack

UPL is currently working with the South Africa Police Service (Saps) in effort find the suspects behind the arson attack on its warehouse.

The company has already provided CCTV footage to police of looters breaking into the warehouse. 

READ MORE: KZN chemical spill: Groundwater likely polluted, communities’ health at risk

“UPL has provided statements and evidence to the Saps investigating officers in relation to the attack. UPL has also handed over CCTV footage showing looters breaking into the warehouse premises, stealing various items from the buildings.

“[In the footage], looters [appear to be] collecting material that may have been used by them to set the property alight. Many of the people in the footage were not wearing masks and are therefore easily identifiable,” UPL South Africa spokesperson Japhet Ncube told Northglen News last week.