Richmond tense after fire guts municipal offices

2013-09-12 00:00

WAS it an electrical fault that led to a fire at the prefabricated Richmond municipal offices or was it an act of sabotage?

This will be the question on the minds of investigators, looking for answers after the prefabricated offices were gutted by fire in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Richmond municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole said the structural damage cost R250 000 and the furniture that was destroyed cost R50 000.

Sithole said they were waiting for a security and SAPS report before they forwarded a claim to the insurance to recover what they had lost.

These offices are situated near the mayor’s office and are used by councillors.

Recently, there have been reports of threats and intimidation in Richmond targeted at Mayor Andrew Ragavaloo and his Executive Committee members.

Ragavaloo’s house was shot at, speaker Thulani Shabalala’s car was torched to ashes and his bodyguard Sazini Ngcobo’s house was set alight.

Ragavaloo said no fingers could be pointed at this stage as preliminary police reports indicated that the fire might have been caused by an electrical fault. “So we cannot then blame anyone at this point until police conclude their investigation,” said Ragavaloo.

He said it had been a frightening experience. “First all of those incidents and now this. But the visit by MEC Willies Mchunu has assured community members they were still safe and they should have confidence in the leadership.”

Ragavaloo said, “When incidents like these occur we turn to wonder whether we were going back to the dark old days of violence and destabilisation.”

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu visited Richmond to assess the security situation and damages.

He urged people to observe restraint and allow police to conduct a full investigation into the causes of the fire.

“Initial investigation reveals that the fire might have been caused by an electrical fault,” he said. “Let us not apportion any blame and let us accept that they may be many causes of the fire. Let the police and all relevant agencies investigate the cause of the fire.

“We must not allow any baseless information to fuel the tension that already exists in Richmond,” said Mchunu.

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