Editorials 7.9.2018 08:50 am

It is the duty of government to keep people safe

A general view of the burning Gauteng Department of Health and Human Settlements building in the Johannesburg CBD, 06 September 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

A general view of the burning Gauteng Department of Health and Human Settlements building in the Johannesburg CBD, 06 September 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

There are many other government buildings in a similar, or worse, state all over the country. And yet nothing seems to get done.

It is a sad day indeed when a group representing civil servants has to take the government to court to ensure their members’ safety.

That is what is happening next week when the Public Service Association (PSA) will head to the Labour Court in an attempt to close down the Civitas building in the Pretoria city centre, which it describes as a death trap and a much worse disaster waiting to happen than the deadly fire at the health department’s building in Johannesburg this week.

Civitas, as we report today, is a pigsty, where the neglect of basic maintenance and security is putting the lives of workers at risk.

The irony is that the building is the headquarters of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Although it is not his responsibility to maintain government buildings – that falls to the public works department (the people who built Nkandla) – we find it incredible that he has not at least pressured his comrades in that department into rectifying what is much more than a very sick building. It is a threat to the health and lives of the people working there.

A number of workers have already embarked on an illegal strike to make their point about the dangerous conditions.

The fire in the building occupied by the Gauteng departments of health and human settlements in Johannesburg cost the lives of three firefighters – and occurred despite the fact that assessments had shown it did not meet health and safety standards.

Nothing was done. People died.

There are many other government buildings in a similar, or worse, state all over the country. And yet nothing seems to get done.

The government has a legal and moral obligation to ensure that the people who work for it are not exposed to danger or discomfort.

It is time they began honouring that obligation.

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