Motion submitted for two MECs to resign over building fire

Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. Picture: Gallo Images

Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. Picture: Gallo Images

The opposition says Ramokgopa and Mamabolo must be made to account for brazenly ignoring multiple warnings.

As news broke on Thursday morning that the fire at the building in Johannesburg in Sauer Street that houses the department of health and the Bank of Lisbon had reignited, the DA announced they had submitted an urgent motion against two MECs for their heads to roll.

The slow reaction to complaints from workers and a departmental study, both emphasising the poor safety conditions of the Gauteng provincial department of health offices, led to three unnecessary deaths yesterday.

Three firefighters died and 13 employees of the Gauteng department of health were admitted to hospital for smoke inhalation following a raging blaze on the upper floors of the building in the Johannesburg CBD.

The fire at the 23-storey government building in the CBD was still raging on Thursday morning and had spread to other parts of the building.

Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesperson Nana Radebe told 702 Talk Radio early Thursday morning that the fire had spread from the top floors to the 16th floor and that firefighters had left the building because the “water pressure was low”.

She said firefighting efforts would resume later in the morning.

In a joint statement, Jack Bloom and Alan Fuchs, the DA’s shadow MECs for health and infrastructure, respectively, in Gauteng, said they had submitted a motion of “urgent public importance to the Gauteng Legislature calling for two Gauteng MECs to resign over their failure to heed warnings about the unsafe Bank of Lisbon building”.

“We call on infrastructure development MEC Jacob Mamabolo and health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to take accountability for their failure to heed multiple warnings that the Bank Of Lisbon building was a health hazard and staff should have been moved elsewhere.”

Mamabolo had earlier admitted that the building, which is owned by his department, was only 21% compliant and contravened the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The building did not have functioning fire extinguishers, and the water pressure and emergency exit routes were inadequate.

“Ramokgopa ignored persistent complaints by staff about unsafe conditions at her head office in the building where the fire broke out on the 23rd Floor. Her own office is there, so how could she have failed to see and act on the safety risks?” said Bloom and Fuchs.

Ramokgopa had also ignored reports by her Directorate of Occupational Hygiene Risk Management that identified “high risk unresolved challenges” in the building.

“A report dated 26 April 2018 also complains about the Infrastructure Development representative concerning whom ‘there is a total lack of communications and contractors are appointed to perform tasks in the BoL without approval by the Sub Directorate Occupational Hygiene Risk Management’

“Both MECs need to be accountable for their inaction in the face of multiple warnings, which is reminiscent of the negligence and callousness that led to the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

“The roof collapse at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital on 2 March 2017 should also have been a wake-up call about the dangers of poor maintenance of government buildings.

“The DA is calling on the two MECs to submit their resignations for their failures in this matter, otherwise Premier David Makhura should fire them within five days.”

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