Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s (RDM’s) outgoing CEO Norbert Schulze, assisted by incoming CEO Jan-Patrick Helmsen, officially opened a Garden of Remembrance at the company’s head office in Somerset West in honour of staff members who lost their lives or suffered injury while on duty.
Eight workers died on 3 September 2018 when an explosion at RDM’s Somerset West facility destroyed the propellant operations building.
At the unveiling of the Garden and Memorial Wall on 3 September, Helmsen 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 assist everyone with the first anniversary of the tragedy. The Garden of Remembrance and Memorial Wall is the result – a permanent place of refuge that provides a spot for reflection and meditation and which is open to all.”
The garden is planted with a lily magnolia tree, a palm tree and Cape holly, among other plants. The lily magnolia symbolises perseverance and love. The Cape holly is an evergreen tree symbolising eternal life. The palm tree is a tree of life and symbolises life after death. It also represents unification. The Garden contains seating and a memorial stone wall, with a black granite plaque engraved in gold with the words: “In memory of our dedicated colleagues. Your lives and contributions will never be forgotten.”
Families were invited to a private unveiling of the Garden, and staff members at the site came together for a minute of silence.
RDM said it continues to provide trauma counselling and tailored support for the families, and all staff.
Schulze, who officially retired on 30 August 2019, wanted to personally open the Garden of Remembrance on the first anniversary of the September 2018 incident. It is not yet clear what caused the explosion – due to the intensity of the blast, not much evidence was left behind.