MEC accused of 'dumping' staff in 'unsafe' Joburg CBD building

18 February 2019 - 15:42 By ZINGISA MVUMVU
The burning Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg in which three firefighters died in 2018.
The burning Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg in which three firefighters died in 2018.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Gauteng human settlements MEC Uhuru Moiloa is being accused of "dumping" his staff at an "unsafe" Johannesburg inner city building while he occupies a cushy office in affluent Killarney.

And to top it all, Moiloa is holding departmental meetings in Sandton while other officials of the department fear for their lives at a "shaky building" in the Johannesburg CBD.

Gauteng's human settlements department moved offices from the Bank of Lisbon building, after it caught fire five months ago, claiming the lives of three firefighters. Moiloa worked from the same offices until that disaster.

Moiloa's staff are now housed at 11 Diagonal Street in the Johannesburg CBD, in a building they claim is unsafe.

Their fears mounted when former departmental head Matilda Gasela told them in December that "it is normal for a building to shake" when they raised concerns with her.

"What I said is that we sourced advice from experts and we were told that it is not abnormal for the building to shake, particularly when you are on a high floor," explained Gasela.

Officials who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals said Moiloa was "not leading by example" as he was operating from "safe" offices at the Housing Development Agency in Killarney.

"The general feeling among workers is that the MEC and HOD are not in touch with our struggles because they are housed elsewhere where it is safe when we are subjected to such terrible conditions that put our lives at risk. All we are asking for is let them come and have offices in the same space so that they can put us at ease," charged one official.

"We are facing similar problems with those we had at the Bank of Lisbon building. Workers have been reporting insect bites, lack of proper air-conditioning and many other issues including cracks at the basement, the movement of the building."

But department spokesperson Lebo Keswa claimed that no safety concerns had been brought to Moiloa's attention.

Keswa confirmed that Moiloa was operating from Killarney and holding meetings in Sandton.

Keswa went on to explain that the MEC was actively involved, with the department of infrastructure and development (DID), to ensure that all buildings occupied by human settlements officials were compliant with health and safety standards.

"The department values the safety of the officials, even in all buildings occupied by the human settlements officials. There has been continuous engagements with landlords to ensure that there is compliance. The department’s new offices are under renovations and staff are expected to be moved there in the upcoming months."

William Maphutha, chairperson of the public sector union Nehawu at human settlements, said they were fighting for the safety of workers.

"As the Nehawu branch executive committee, we have taken a decision that we are not going to take any risks with members' lives, we will fight tooth and nail to make sure the safety of workers comes first," he reassured.