Following a devastating fire in central Joburg at the Bank of Lisbon building that is also home to the department of health, the DA’s Gauteng premier candidate, Solly Msimanga, has said government may be culpable in the tragedy.
Three firefighters lost their lives in fighting the fire on Wednesday, while many other people were admitted to hospital.
Msimanga said the provincial government would need to take responsibility for the deaths.
“Despite the fact that the Gauteng Provincial Government was aware that the Bank of Lisbon building was not compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, nothing was done to ensure safety of the employees working in this building.
“I have therefore asked our legal team to explore if there is criminal culpability on the part of the Provincial Government and the politicians who allowed this tragedy to happen. Families have been shattered because of this dark event – there must be accountability.”
Earlier in the day, Jack Bloom and Alan Fuchs, the DA’s shadow MECs for health and infrastructure, respectively, 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.
Msimanga said “the failing ANC’s arrogance has led to these tragic losses; if they had listened to the building inspectors and warnings from the employees this would not have happened. The uncaring ANC put its employees and residents in harm’s way on a daily basis.”
He said Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba had been working tirelessly to clean up the ANC’s “mess” in the city by ensuring there were more fire engines and personnel.
“Two fire engines were fully refurbished and five new fire engines were acquired earlier this year to serve areas such as the Johannesburg CBD, and there are plans to procure more fire engines.
Msimanga said he would engage with various unions to listen to their concerns about the safety of workers in government buildings to establish what safety measures could be implemented.