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UPL Cornubia Warehouse Fire Incident

News Updates

Cornubia arson attack: UPL will be making a written submission to the SAHRC

PRESS STATEMENT BY UPL SOUTH AFRICA

03 December 2021

Cornubia arson attack: UPL will be making a written submission to the SAHRC

UPL South Africa will be making a written submission to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) following yesterday’s hearing, which focused on the arson attack on its leased Cornubia warehouse on the 12th of July - as part of the SAHRC’s investigation into the widespread violence and looting that spread through parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in mid-July this year.

UPL was inexplicably not invited to provide evidence during yesterday’s hearing and therefore was not given an opportunity to respond to statements made by University of KwaZulu-Natal Professor Rajen Naidoo and Blackburn Village community member Kwanele Msizazwe, many of which, were false, misleading or inaccurate.

Most importantly, UPL has sought expert opinion in terms of its compliance with the relevant legislation and contests the findings of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s preliminary report and will be responding in the appropriate forum. However, it stands by the fact that no level of compliance would have prevented the spill that resulted from the arson attack on the 12th of July and the inability of law enforcement, emergency services and private spills teams to respond to the incident timeously, due to the breakdown of law and order in the area.

Furthermore, since the attack, UPL has done everything possible to mitigate the impact of the chemical spill in the area. This includes spending R297 million on cleanup and rehabilitation operations. It is pleased that these extensive efforts are showing success with signs of new vegetation growing and wildlife returning to the area surrounding the site.

UPL has also continued to monitor the impact of the spill on human health in surrounding communities and remains committed to working with the eThekwini Department of Health to address any health concerns held by members of the Blackburn community, which relate directly to the arson attack and spill. UPL cannot however be expected to fill the service delivery vacuum left by years of neglect of this community by local authorities.

Since the attack UPL has worked openly and transparently with the relevant government authorities including providing regular reports on the work being done and status of the surrounding area. UPL hopes that, in the interests of fairness and due process, the SAHRC will accept its written submission in order to respond to the serious allegations made against it at yesterday’s hearing and to submit its own evidence on the violent arson attack and the aftermath.

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Cornubia warehouse attack: UPL works with SAPS to bring criminals to book

PRESS STATEMENT BY UPL SOUTH AFRICA

16 November 2021

Cornubia warehouse attack: UPL works with SAPS to bring criminals to book

UPL, one of the leading suppliers of agricultural inputs to farmers across South Africa, has engaged a former public prosecutor to assist the South African Police Service (SAPS) to bring the criminals behind the arson attack on its leased Cornubia warehouse on the 12th of July to book.

To date no arrests have been made in relation to the looting and arson attack on the warehouse, which formed part of the widespread criminality and violence that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng in mid-July this year.

UPL has been committed to doing everything possible to deal with the fallout of this unprecedented and unpredictable attack. This has included spending over R267 million (to date) to deal with the chemical spill that resulted from the warehouse being deliberately set on fire. We are pleased that this clean-up operation, which saw 130 people working around the clock over the past few months, has successfully contained the spill, with eThekwini municipality reopening the beaches on the 2nd of November.

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 and also what appears to be looters collecting material which 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 and so it hopes that this evidence will assist the SAPS with their investigations and lead to arrests.

With very few perpetrators who had participated in the widespread looting and violence in July having been convicted to date, UPL will continue to assist the SAPS where it can, so the criminals responsible for the warehouse attack, and the subsequent spill caused by the unrest, face the full might of the law.

UPL will also carry on working closely with all government authorities, civil society and communities on its remediation and rehabilitation programmes in the affected areas.
And it will continue providing local farmers with the vital inputs that they require to contribute to the country’s overall food security.

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Cornubia warehouse attack: UPL welcomes reopening of the beaches

PRESS STATEMENT BY UPL SOUTH AFRICA

02 November 2021

Cornubia warehouse attack: UPL welcomes reopening of the beaches

UPL welcomes the announcement by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Mr Ravi Pillay, that the majority of beaches that were closed will reopen for recreational purposes today, 2 November 2021. This latest development demonstrates the success of UPL’s ongoing extensive clean-up operations.

This decision follows the finalisation of the EDTEA’s external peer review of the independent specialists’ final beaches report, submitted by UPL on the 24th of September to the eThekwini Municipality. That report concluded that, save for a 1km exclusion zone north, south and east of the Ohlanga River mouth, the beaches are safe to reopen (regardless of whether the Ohlanga Estuary mouth is open or closed).

We are pleased that the EDTEA’s external peer reviewer has concurred with the recommendations of the beaches report and that the eThekwini municipality, as the competent authority, has made the decision to reopen the beaches.

UPL has spared no expense to mitigate the impact of the chemical spill that resulted from the 12th July arson attack on the warehouse leased by UPL and the failure of emergency and fire services to attend to the fire timeously due to the complete breakdown of law and order in the area at the time. It has spent over R250 million to date on its clean up and rehabilitation operations.

Going forward UPL’s team of independent specialists will continue to assess the impact of the spill on the environment, and the potential impact on human health, in the surrounding business and residential communities. UPL will continue working on remediation and rehabilitation programmes in the affected areas. UPL will continue engaging with government authorities, civil society and surrounding communities on these programmes.

Finally, UPL, who is one of the leading suppliers of local farming input to farmers across South Africa, is committed to providing local farmers with the vital inputs that they require for this year’s growing season and to contribute to the country’s overall food security.

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Cornubia warehouse arson attack: UPL concerned over aspects of government’s establishment of multi-stakeholder forum

PRESS STATEMENT BY UPL SOUTH AFRICA

23 October 2021

Cornubia warehouse arson attack: UPL concerned over aspects of government’s establishment of multi-stakeholder forum

UPL’s legal team has written to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Environment (EDTEA) indicating that it will not be attending the launch of a multi-stakeholder forum to be established in the wake of the UPL Cornubia warehouse arson attack, which is taking place today, 23rdof October.

This follows a letter sent to the EDTEA on the 15th of October in which UPL raised a number of concerns regarding the draft Terms of Reference for the forum. It has to date received no response to those concerns.

In its reasons for deciding not to attend the launch, UPL expressed its frustration that the draft TOR was sent out for public comment without any prior consultation with UPL and that since receiving UPL’s letter of concerns regarding the forum there has been no further engagement at all. In launching the forum without resolving its terms of reference, the impression has been created that UPL has accepted the proposals contained in these draft documents, when that is not the case.

UPL has in all of its communications expressed its support for a forum that will enable stakeholders to be informed and express their concerns. It is committed to transparency and openness and is more than willing to work with government and stakeholders following the arson attack on its leased Cornubia warehouse. However, it has objected to the overly broad mandate that was proposed for the forum and the extensive powers accorded to it, thereby confusing the roles of government with those of stakeholders and making it potentially unworkable.

UPL believes that the terms of reference of the forum go well beyond the specific actions the EDTEA is empowered to take under s30 of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), under which UPL is performing its clean up operations. It also takes the view that the objectionable aspects in the draft TOR are not required for government to achieve its objectives in terms of the Act. Notwithstanding that, UPL agrees that it is important that all stakeholders, including the surrounding communities, are kept informed of developments since the arson attack on its leased Cornubia warehouse, and that the forum has an important role in that regard. It has indicated its willingness to engage with EDTEA to assist it in that role, but without the other objectionable aspects of the forum’s TOR.

UPL has also, since the arson attack, ensured an open line of communication with government authorities, which has included keeping them informed of its efforts to mitigate the impact of the chemical spill as required in terms of s30 of the NEMA. This includes providing weekly reports to all three spheres of government on its extensive clean up and rehabilitation operations, which have cost UPL over R250 million to date.

The decision to launch the forum before settling its terms of reference is highly unfortunate, and could have been avoided. UPL is disappointed that the opportunity to launch the forum with UPL’s wholehearted support has been lost.

This follows a similar situation where on the 3rd of October, Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) Barbara Creecy released a preliminary report by her department into the warehouse attack, without any prior discussions with UPL who only received the document a few hours before it was sent out.

UPL remains committed to continue working closely with government and all stakeholders in civil society and surrounding communities in order to mitigate the impact of the events which have occurred after the arson attack on its warehouse which resulted from the civil unrest of 12th of July. However, it has asked for meaningful, timely and proper consultation and engagement between it and government on all issues, of which the proposed forum is merely one. It looks forward to engaging with the EDTEA on the TOR for the forum so that it can constructively engage with it moving forward.

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Cornubia warehouse arson attack: UPL concerned over the continued delay by eThekwini municipality to open the beaches

Note to editors: UPL will be not available for media interviews at this stage, but will in the coming days provide the opportunity for extensive media briefings.

PRESS RELEASE BY UPL SOUTH AFRICA

20 October 2021

Cornubia warehouse arson attack: UPL concerned over the continued delay by eThekwini municipality to open the beaches

UPL’s legal team has written to the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Environment (EDTEA) expressing its concern over the continued delay in reopening the beaches which were closed following the arson attack on its leased warehouse in Cornubia on the 12th of July as part of the widespread looting that broke out across KwaZulu-Natal. The fire led to a chemical spill due to emergency services not being able to immediately respond to the fire as a result of a the complete breakdown of law and order in the area.

The letter follows a meeting last week on the 11th October 2021 between UPL’s team of independent specialists and the Department’s external reviewer who has been appointed to conduct a peer review of the report that was submitted to the Department on 24th of September. The report presented the results of a chemical analysis of the beaches and sea water at the beginning of September and concluded that all the beaches and ocean outside a 1km exclusion zone, north, south and east of the mouth pose an extremely low chemical risk to the public regardless of whether the estuary mouth is open or closed.

At this meeting, UPL’s team of independent specialists provided more detail on the chemical analysis and results and also answered all questions posed by the independent reviewer. The team also provided information on the extensive clean-up operations that have been funded by UPL since the attack and which have cost over R250 million to date.

UPL is of the opinion that all necessary information has been supplied in order for authorities to determine that the beaches are safe to be reopened. UPL recognises the negative impact of the prolonged closure of the beaches on tourism establishments in the area as well as other economic sectors such as the local fishing industry.

It is therefore concerned that the decision to reopen the beaches is being unnecessarily delayed and has urged EDTEA to urgently expedite this process so that these beaches can once again be enjoyed by the public.

UPL remains committed to continue working closely with government, civil society and surrounding communities in order to mitigate the impact of the fire and chemical spill and move forward after the unfortunate and unforeseeable events of the 12th of July.

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UPL disappointed by Minister Creecy’s release of preliminary report into the Cornubia warehouse attack

Note to editors: UPL will be not available for media interviews at this stage, but will in the coming days provide the opportunity for extensive media briefings.

PRESS RELEASE BY UPL SOUTH AFRICA

SUNDAY 3 OCTOBER 2021

UPL disappointed by Minister Creecy’s release of preliminary report into the Cornubia warehouse attack

UPL has always been fully committed to cooperation with all three spheres of government to help manage the after effects of the violent attack on its Cornubia Warehouse in July of this year. It has had extensive correspondence with government in this regard, and has always acted in good faith in its interactions.

UPL is thus deeply disappointed that Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy has decided to release her department’s preliminary findings of an investigation into a fire incident at its Cornubia Warehouse without any prior discussion with the company. The preliminary report was only sent to UPL late last night, a matter of mere hours before its release.

As a result, UPL has simply had insufficient time to properly consider the preliminary report. What is nevertheless clear is that it fails to address what is at the heart of the issue – namely, that the fires, which led to the pollution, were caused by rioters involved in the civil unrest in Kwazulu-Natal at the time and which the emergency services were unable to contain. UPL along with many other businesses were left to fend for themselves in the face of unprecedented and unforeseeable levels of violence and criminality. This central fact seems to be conveniently ignored by Minister Creecy’s department.

At first glance, the circulation of this preliminary report at extremely late notice to UPL, appears to have been a deliberate strategy to deny UPL sufficient time within which to enforce its rights and ultimately to prejudice its rights. UPL does not admit any non-compliance with the law, as alleged in the preliminary report.

From the limited time that UPL has had to consider the preliminary report, it is also evident that very little has been said about UPL’s extraordinary efforts at the containment and clean-up of its lost products, its compliance with its NEMA obligations and the NEMA Directives issued – all at considerable cost to UPL and in the most adverse circumstances possible.

UPL has desisted from highlighting the many inadequacies of government’s response to this matter. If it had, it would have detailed the many disorganised, uncoordinated and contradictory responses from the authorities. It decided that the best course of action would be to remain focused on urgent containment efforts and dealing with the damage caused by the looters and the failure of the state to provide adequate protection at the time of the violence.

UPL will in due course respond to allegations of non-compliance in the appropriate forums. For now, it intends to get on with the clean-up and rehabilitation. It has had extensive interactions with the authorities in the past, and trust that the Minister’s current visit and actions have not prejudiced that.

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PRESS STATEMENT: UPL welcomes engagement with Minister Creecy and others tomorrow

Note to Editors: UPL will not be available for interviews as they are preparing for the Minister’s visit

PRESS STATEMENT BY UPL SOUTH AFRICA

1 October 2021

UPL welcomes engagement with Minister Creecy and others tomorrow

UPL is looking forward to welcoming Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Creecy along with MEC Ravi Pillay and Mayor Mxolisi Thomas Kaunda to Cornubia tomorrow. This forms part of our ongoing engagement with all three spheres of government.

Despite the spillage resulting from factors beyond UPL’s control as a result in the fundamental break down in law and order, it has spared no effort or expense in containing the situation. To date UPL has spent in excess of R177 million in clean-up operations and on monitoring the impact on public health. UPL is grateful that there has been no reported instances of serious illness or death as a result of the spill.

An independent assessment has found that the affected beaches can be reopened, (with exclusion zones for recreation and harvesting). The final decision now rests with the eThekwini Municipality as to when they will decide to formally reopen the affected beaches. UPL hopes that this decision will be taken as soon as possible

UPL remains committed to working with all three spheres of government as well as all affected parties to address the situation and to ensure that a company which is of vital importance to South Africa’s food security can continue to provide much needed products to the agricultural sector.

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PRESS STATEMENT BY JAN BOTHA COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR- OF UPL SOUTH AFRICA

23 September 2021

UPL warehouse arson attack: Experts give all clear for beaches to open

UPL has provided a report written by independent specialists to the eThekwini Municipality on the results of a chemical analysis of the beaches and sea water conducted over the past few weeks, with the last samples taken on the 8th of September. The report recommends that all beaches are safe to be reopened following the arson attack against the UPL Cornubia warehouse on 12th of July 2021 during the widespread violence and looting that broke out across Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Samples, including control samples, were taken at various sites along the coastline (from Salt Rock in the north to Umgeni estuary in the south) with the results undergoing expert scrutiny and interpretation by a range of independent specialists. They have concluded that the beaches and ocean outside a 1km exclusion zone, north, south and east of the mouth pose an extremely low chemical risk to the public regardless of whether the estuary mouth is open or closed.

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UPL response to Democratic Alliance Statement of 2nd September 2021

UPL has noted the statement by Mr Heinz de Boer of the DA that charges have been laid against it in the Verulam Magistrates Court for “environmental pollution”. It has not seen any charges, nor does it understand the basis for such charges, if there are any, or who has laid them.

UPL has also noted the statement that it has played “cat and mouse” and has engaged in a litany of actions including providing “unsatisfactory reports” and “unsatisfactory responses” and having failed to supply necessary documents and information to the authorities.

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Update on clean-up and remediation after arson attack on Cornubia warehouse

31 Aug 2021

An intensive containment and clean-up operation after the arson attack that destroyed UPL’s Cornubia warehouse has successfully contained all runoff from the site, pollution control and treatment dams have been constructed, and remediation efforts are well under way.

This follows events in the late evening of 12 July and early hours of 13 July, when the UPL Cornubia warehouse was vandalised and set on fire by looters connected with the general unrest that spread through the greater Durban area.

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UPL SOUTH AFRICA (PTY) LTD CORNUBIA WAREHOUSE FIRE - COMPLAINTS SUBMISSION

26 Aug 2021

During the evening of 12 July 2021 / the morning of 13th July 2021, an arson attack occurred at UPL’s Cornubia Warehouse at Umganu Road, resulting in a fire which destroyed the warehouse and caused agri-chemical products to disperse into the surrounding environment. Any business or person wishing to lodge a complaint because of the incident must complete the UPL Cornubia Warehouse Fire Complaint Form and deliver the Complaint Form to UPL.

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MEDIA STATEMENT: Update on Cornubia warehouse fire

31 Jul 2021

Since UPL’s media statement of 19 July, additional issues of public concern have been raised which the company would like to address.

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Update on Cornubia warehouse fire

19 Jul 2021

Communities in the vicinity of the Cornubia warehouse fire have been understandably anxious to receive more information on the ongoing remediation efforts and the containment of the crop solution products that may have been released into the environment following the arson attack on the building.

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PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

17 Jul 2021

The looting in the Cornubia area led to multiple fires being set, including a warehouse storing plant protection products that was set on fire on Monday, 12th July 2021. The repeated attacks, as well as the unrest which prevented a rapid response, resulted in the brand new facility’s security and state-of-the-art safety features being overwhelmed.

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Submission of Complaints

Please download the below guidelines for an explanation on how to submit your complaint and the handling of your complaint by UPL.

Download– Guidelines

Once you have read the Guidelines, please download the below complaint form and send a scanned copy on email to: or delivery a hard copy to UPL’s office at:
7 Sunbury Office Park, Douglas Saunders Drive, La Lucia Ridge,
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Download – Complaint Form

Or

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