Someone stopped move from building of death, unions want heads to roll

Firefighters continue to battle the fire in the Department of Health building in the Johannesburg CBD for the second day, 6 September 2018. Picture: Neil McCartney

An R8.3m tender was cancelled last year because the health department allegedly frustrated the relocation project.

Labour unions yesterday said a tender worth R8.3 million authorised last year meant to relocate health officials from the dangerous Bank of Lisbon building to a refurbished building in the Johannesburg central business district was cancelled by the Gauteng department of infrastructure development.

Six labour unions gathered outside the badly burnt Bank of Lisbon building, which houses the provincial departments of health and human settlements, to inform the public about the developments that came out of their meeting with the provincial administrators.

They said they wanted those responsible for the failure of the R8.3 million project to be held accountable.

Simphiwe Gada, chairperson of Denosa in Gauteng, said taxpayers’ money was used to renovate a building they had intended to relocate the health head office to.

“When the employer came forward and said they wanted to relocate the employees, we were sceptical and said we will believe it when it happens, because we wanted to see the documents,” Gada said.

“When the process of appointing a relocation company had to happen, that process was frustrated and ultimately that is why they were saying they were not going to move the staff.

“We are calling for those who spent the taxpayers’ money to take responsibility and be held accountable …”

He also said the labour unions were calling on government officials to take responsibility for their role in what eventually led to last week’s deadly fire at the Bank of Lisbon building, and said unions condemned current attempts at shifting the blame.

Gada said unions were requesting for officials involved to recuse themselves, and for two officials with the department of infrastructure development to be suspended “with immediate effect”.

Gracia Rikhotso, Nehawu deputy secretary in Gauteng, said the unions had learnt a good lesson from the fires that claimed three lives last week and that they were now taking a firm stand.

Rikhotso called on their members in the health department, working in buildings identified as hazardous, not to report for work today until something was done.

Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesperson Nana Radebe said firefighters had packed up and left the building on Friday after putting out the fire.

Radebe also said three of the nine firefighters who were sent to hospital were discharged while the other six still suffered from trauma and experienced flashbacks.


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