Grieving firefighters drown out chief's speech at memorial service

2015-05-21 17:09
(Naledi Shange, News24)

(Naledi Shange, News24)

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Johannesburg - Grieving emergency workers and firefighters showed their dissatisfaction of their work environment when they sang loudly, drowning out the speech of Tshepo Makola, Chief of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Dozens of firefighters occupied one side of the Standard Bank Arena where the memorial service of their colleagues, Daniel Zwane and Michael Letsosa, was held. The two were killed in a blaze at a Johannesburg building at the weekend.

Zwane and Letsosa died from smoke inhalation.

Wearing T-shirts - with pictures of their late colleagues - over their blue uniforms, the firefighters turned their backs on Makola as he tried to deliver his address.

"Senzeni na", meaning what have we done, they sang, clapping and stomping their feet.

Senior officials mounted the podium, asking for calm, but the firefighters sang even louder. Two officials headed to the benches to speak to them and calm was restored but, as soon as Makola got up to speak, the group erupted in song, turning their backs on him.

They sang throughout his speech.

Battling to get his message across, Makola said it was God who was in control of all people's destinies.

Earlier, a few of Zwane and Letsosa's colleagues mounted the podium and suggested their colleagues' deaths were not accidental.

Sello Sello, the driver of the firefighting truck, described the hurt and guilt he felt at losing his colleagues. He said he felt as if he had taken his colleagues to their deaths.

"There was a lot of recklessness... I won't say [whose fault] it was but there was recklessness," Sello said.

"I thought it was a dream when Letsosa called me saying: 'Sello, I am dying. I feel like my soul is leaving me'."

Another firefighter, Tumi Ramotala, said he had first gone into the burning building with Letsosa.

"We both came back [out] alive. Dan followed instructions from his superior to go back in and he never came out," said Ramotala.

"We spent almost the whole night looking for them," he said.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  fire

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