You remember that we wrote the story of Mr Leslie Steenkamp who tried to rid his Plumstead house of borer-beetles, but instead ended up losing it due to an over-application of a pesticide CTX 108 by a fumigation company, Pestokil.
As promised in our story last time, the Green Times has been in touch with all companies concerned in order to give them a fair chance to have their viewpoints published. In order for you to judge for yourself, we have provided most of these conversations verbatim here.
Silence from Pestokil
In our letter addressed to Mr Aubrey Harris from Pestokil, we posed the following questions:
- According to our sources there was an over-dosage applied to the extent of 666% of what it should have been. Do you agree with this? If not, how do you see it?
- What are the training procedures which your staff are submitted to when they handle a new product?
- How do you explain what happened on that fateful day?
- What are you planning on doing to compensate this family deprived of a safe home to live in?
- Would you like to make any other comments?
We have received no response from Pestokil to date.
How to protect people?
To the South African Pest Control Association (SAPCA) we posed the following questions:
- Would you like us to publish any comments to my article as published in The Green Times?
- Could you please explain SAPCA’s function?
- It seems that Mr Steenkamp, quite rightly, expected SAPCA to act in his interest and provide an objective view of the whole over-spraying debacle. If the chairman and some board members are all involved in selling or dispensing pest control sprays, how would SAPCA be able to render such a service?
- What are you as SAPCA going to do about this incident and protecting the injured client, Mr Steenkamp?
- How could such an event be avoided in the future?
Association supposed to promote public health
In a letter signed by Lynette Cokayne, CEO SAPCA / PCSIB we received their response:
‘Thank you very much for the opportunity to respond to your article in the Green Times dated 14 October, Issue 38b and the questions you forwarded us for a follow up article. Please find below response from the South African Pest Control Association below.
SAPCAs function: The South African Pest Control Association (SAPCA), has acted as voice of the pest control industry since 1964.
The aim of the association is to:
- advance the science and practice of pest control by collaborating with research interested organizations,
- assist its members with information regarding trends and new developments as well as keeping them informed of amendments of existing laws by government, provincial and municipal bodies,
- cooperate with government, provincial and local authorities in the promotion of public health for the good of the community and the pest control industry,
- cooperate with scientific and educational institutions and other organizations in matter of interest to the industry,
- represent the industry at various stakeholder levels,
- motivate its members to only use best industry practices in their business conduct,
- encourage the use of products of high quality, following correct application methods and maintenance of appliances and the safe and correct storage of products,
- foster co-operation in all its aspects among members,
- cooperate with any other overseas organizations having similar or allied objectives, and
- conform to the Laws and Regulations affecting the pest control industry.
The committee of the Western Cape branch of SAPCA completed a full and thorough investigation and attempted to resolve Mr. Steenkamp’s complaint in January 2011. On 28th January 2011 Mr Leslie Steenkamp was supplied with a formal written response by Mr. Mark Enslin.
Efforts by SAPCA to mediate a resolution of Mr. Steenkamp’s complaint failed. As an industry association we cannot become involved in this matter any further as Mr Steenkamp issued summons against Pestokil and this matter is set down for trial on 13 February 2012. This matter is thus sub judice.’
In law, sub judice, Latin for “under a judge”, means that a particular case or matter is under trial or being considered by a judge or court.
Insurance also not where you need them
To Santam, the insurance company who rejected the insurance claim, we sent the following questions, translated from Afrikaans:
- If Mr Steenkamp’s house was insured against accidents, which this incident seems to have been, why was Santam not prepared to pay him out?
- Please explain why Santam could not help such a victim and what you reckon he should be doing?
- I am a Santam client myself and such an event could have happened to anyone. How can an ordinary person protect himself against such danger?
- Would you like to comment in general?
Extensions not in place
Here is the response from Mr Francois Olivier Santam Manager: Specialist Liability Unit (SLU):
‘It is important to note that the Insured in this instance is not Mr. Steenkamp, but the company that did the pest control. On a commercial policy, as in the case of Pestokil, the section Public Liability provide for matters where our insured may become legally liable to pay towards third parties.
It is also important to note that the Public Liability Section contains various extensions that an insured may require, based on the needs for his specific type of business. The option to take up these extensions is determined by the client and not by Santam.
In this instance, Pestokil never took up the required extensions and so are not covered. Santam therefore had no option but to decline the claim of Pestokil’
Facility not in place
So we found out that Mr Steenkamp’s house structure was in fact ensured by OutSurance, who turned down Mr Steenkamp’s claim for compensation. In a letter from a Leocardo Martin, he states that ‘the cause of the loss or damage to the item for which you submitted a claim is not covered in terms of the facility.’
Then we sent some queries to Mr Willie Conradie of Timberlife, the supplier of CTX 108:
- Would you like to give us your side of the story? What do you make of the excessive over-spraying that happened and how could that have been avoided?
- What training procedures take place when you deliver a new product to a client? What is your company going to do to compensate Mr Steenkamp for the loss of a safe house to live in?
Suppliers wash their hands
Timberlife’s attorneys, Cilliers and Reynders, responded this way:
‘We have been placed in possession of your e-mail dated 13 October 2011 addressed to Timberlife. Timberlife also had some previous queries that emanate from work done by Pestokil at the residence of the Steenkamp family from other entities / individuals. Timberlife appointed our firm to act on their behalf as some of these queries resulted in incriminating statements by other parties. We are in the process of taking legal action against some individuals / entities.
In your e-mail you request our client’s response to an article that was allegedly published. You have not provided a copy of the article and then you require our client’s side of the story without giving our client full particulars of what the article entailed.
What is apparent from your e-mail is that you have already formulated your own opinion and you are claiming from our client to compensate Mr Steenkamp for ‘the loss of a safe house to live in.’ There is no sound basis on which you can call for compensation. What is further disconcerting is the fact that the Steenkamps are also claiming from Pestokil for damages allegedly suffered by the work done by Pestokil.
Action was instituted by the Steenkamps out of the High Court of South Africa, Western Cape High Court and the matter is sub judice. Our client is not a party to those proceedings.
Having regard to the above you will understand that our client cannot react to the article which you have failed to provide and further it would appear that the Steenkamps are in litigation with Pestokil. Our client cannot comment on these matters and was also not party to the so called excessive over spraying.’
I find it interesting to hear that a company of Timberlife‘s standing is not familiar with the system of online publishing and was not able to click on our website address, which was included in our mail, to read the story published on our home page.
In our next issue we will report further on Mr Steenkamp’s extended battle with serious health consequence due to inhaling the toxic fumes for many months in his home office.
By Elma Pollard