HORRENDOUS; ; Sunbelt Factory Worker Electrocuted During Roof Maintenance


JINJA, Uganda [SHIFTMEDIA] The Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development is probing circumstances under which a Sunbelt Textiles Company Limited  worker was electrocuted as he conducted routine maintenance and cleaning at the Jinja based facility.

Sunbelt located on plot 64-68 Walukuba Road in Jinja carries out weaving, dying, printing and sewing of textiles to produce finished products like bedsheets, bed covers, pillow cases. They are also engaged in mining in Karamoja region.

What went wrong

The gruesome photos of Mathew Onapa, one of the mechanics who is treating electric burns, and severe wounds at St James Surgical and Orthopaedic Clinic  in Jinja shocked the nation on Thursday May 18 .

Tororo District Local Government Chairman John Okeya, who hails from the same sub county as  the victims described the incident as “terrible and horrible.”  “Why would people involved in such a terrific accident be arrested for theft?” Mused Okeya.

Okeya called upon government and legal experts to come to the rescue of Mathew Onapa and Brian Onapa. Mathew Onapa who fell off the  50 meter roof they were servicing solar panels is treating severe burn wounds after he was electrocuted due to purported negligence of the Sunbelt factory owned by Chinese.

Onapa Brian, the co worker of Mathew Onapa was subsequently arrested for theft and locked up at Jinja Central Police Station. (By the time we visited CPS Jinja, Onapa Brian was released on police Bond) following the intervention of Detective George Oketcho, the Chief Executive Director Wolves Security.

Mathew Onapa battling for life after being electrocuted during work at Sunbelt factory in Masese Jinja

Oketcho, a former police detective was instructed by the Tororo District Chairperson, Okeya to ensure Onapa Brian is released.

Oketcho told us he is also quiring why the Jinja police rushed so fast to take the file to the Resident State Attorney even as one victim was still hospitalized and battling for life. ” I smell a rat, regarding the speed at which this file was rushed to the RSA and sanctioned even before thorough investigations,  these Chinese bribed these detectives,” said Oketcho.

Lawyers pick interest

Voices For Labour , one of the leading firms agitating for workers rights, and safety at the work place swung into action promising to ensure the two workers get justice. Ms Robinah Kagoye the Executive Director Voices for Labour said; “We can’t sit and watch as the so called foreign investors continue to torment our Ugandan workers.” Kagoye who said her legal team had been lined up o defend the duo said the Sunbelt management were rushing to accuse the victims of theft since they fear to be charged with negligence and failure to provide protective gears as required by law.

“We thank all those who exposed the plight of the two workers, we shall ensure through Voices for Labour that Onapa Brian and Mathew Onapa get justice,” said Kagoye.

What we unearthed

Our preliminary investigations found out that Mathew Onapa and Brian Onapa, both residents of Soweto, Masese, Walukuba Division, in Jinja City have been employed as mechanics at Sunbelt factory for the last six years

They have never been accused of any wrong doing, let alone theft. Onapa Brian who is now out on police Bond said on Saturday 13 May 2023, they were instructed by their boss, a one Fu, (Chinese) factory Manager to climb and clean the roof top of the storage building.

“We worked the entire Saturday but didn’t complete. We decided to return to the roof on Monday 15 May to complete the cleaning and maintenance,” explained Onapa Brian.

“We began cleaning the roof at 8am.until 4pm. Our supervisor, a one Mr. Zang was absent by that evening,” explained Onapa.

“As we wound up, I heard Mathew taking on phone as he walked through the solar panels.. Then shortly I had a loud bang coupled with fierce cries.” ” Mathew had apparently stepped on one unbolted 30feet solar panel,” explained Onapa Brian.

Onapa says as Mathew slid, he tried to glue on a wire that was on the roof top that had live electricity on it. “The wire was live, and since we didn’t have any safety and protective gears, the live wire burnt him seriously,” said Brian.

He says after the thunderous fall, he called his manager, supervisor and immediate Co workers. “Mathew was rushed to St James Clinic. Immediately after the Manager called the UPDF guards Manning the security to arrest me accusing us of stealing solar panels,” said Onapa.

What puzzles is, the hugeness of the solar panels.” The panels (30 feet) need about four huge men to carry, now how would two of us carry these huge panel from over a 50feet roof, and with all the soldiers guarding the entire facility, and during day time,” wondered Onapa.

He said the Chinese feared liability and thus rushed to heap fake cases against us.

Malicious Arrest and Detention

At Jinja Central Police Station, a case of Malicious Arrest and Detention vide CRB 494/2023 had been registered against the two. In a complaint letter to the Chief Senior Resident State Attorney that we obtained, Onapa Brian is questioning the charge and the speed at which the file was sanctioned.

The Sunbelt management declined to comment on the matter when contacted, saying their lawyers would respond at at appropriate time.

Voices for Labour Executive Director Robinah Kagoye promised to take the case from there.

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