Divided court dismisses Coega fire claim
Attempts by an Eastern Cape car parts manufacturer to hold Coega Development Corporation liable for a fire which broke out at its Uitenhage factory in 2010 – causing damages of more than R13m – have failed, says a Daily Dispatch report.
But it notes the SCA decision, which found the landlord was not in breach of its contract with Rehau Polymer (Pty) Ltd, divided the Bench.
The action was dismissed with costs after three of the five judges found that Coega was not in breach of the lease agreement at the time of the fire.
It was common cause that the gas fire suppression system required both electricity and gas to operate. But, at the time of the fire, the gas cylinders were not connected and the system therefore malfunctioned.
Acting SCA Judge Jannie Eksteen said had the system been functional, much of the damage would have been averted.
However, he said Coega had abided by the requirement for a gas fire suppression system, and 'in the result, the appeal must fail'.
While Judges Visvanathan Ponnan and Kevin Swain agreed with Eksteen’s findings, Judges Baratang Mocumie and Tati Makgoka did not. According to the Daily Dispatch, Mocumie said there was an obligation on the owner of the premises or the person in charge to not only install, but to also maintain a fire protection system.
Makgoka agreed, saying responsibility did not start and end with the installation of the system, adding Coega had the obligation to ensure the system actually achieved the purpose for which it was installed.
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