Long list of government offices at risk of catching fire

09 September 2018 - 00:00 By APHIWE DEKLERK

Gauteng premier David Makhura's office is in one of eight Johannesburg buildings housing provincial government departments that do not comply with health and safety standards.
The buildings, identified by Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe, include the Bank of Lisbon building in Pixley ka Isaka Seme Street where three firefighters died in a blaze this week. Tenants include the departments of health, human settlements, and co-operative governance & traditional affairs.
"Earlier this year, because of the complaints that were constantly coming up, the MEC for infrastructure development asked a private company to do a conditional assessment of all the buildings, including the Bank of Lisbon," Masebe said.
"The department received the report last week, that is the report that tells us the conditions of the buildings."
Makhura's office is housed at 30 Simmonds Street, a building that caught fire in June last year. Occupants of the building had to be evacuated.
The other buildings are:
Imbumba House at 75 Fox Street, which houses the provincial treasury;
The SA Perm building and the Thusanong building, both in Commissioner Street, which house social development;
Corner House in Commissioner Street, which houses infrastructure development and co-operative governance & traditional affairs; and
The Sage building and the Absa building in Simmonds Street, which house the departments of transport, infrastructure development, and health.
A government insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, detailed how a number of the buildings failed to meet safety standards.
"In some areas, and this does not apply to all, you find that because they don't want people to break in, they will lock the emergency exit," he said.
"Sometimes you find there are not enough fire detectors or the fire detector is not connected properly."
The source said in some buildings routine checks on fire extinguishers were not done, and sometimes occupants were not familiar with evacuation plans.
He said in some cases staff did not know where to report things like faulty plugs, which could cause a fire, while in other cases there were not enough personnel to alert staff to evacuate when a fire broke out.
Lebo Keswa, spokesperson for human settlements MEC Uhuru Moiloa, said staff in the department had had many complaints about the Bank of Lisbon building.
"[They] were evacuated due to continuous power outages, some of which were due to cable thefts, spillages due to burst pipes, as well as water shortages in the building."
Masebe said the national labour department had conducted an investigation at the Bank of Lisbon building last year and the problems it identified were fixed.
He said a tender process for new offices had been completed last week.
Teboho Thejane, spokesperson for the department of labour, said the investigation at the Bank of Lisbon building had only involved the first 12 floors because those were the floors named in the complaints, which related to construction work.

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