They didn’t care. They had nice offices

2018-09-09 12:01
 Firefighters take a break for food and water on the second day of fighting the fire that engulfed the Bank of Lisbon in Johannesburg. PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

Firefighters take a break for food and water on the second day of fighting the fire that engulfed the Bank of Lisbon in Johannesburg. PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

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Scores of government workers in Gauteng do not know whether or not to report for duty tomorrow – or where to report to.

And it is unclear what will happen to the hundreds of employees housed at nine dangerous government buildings belonging to the Gauteng government.

City Press has learnt that none of the nine buildings in the Johannesburg CBD achieved 50% compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This according to a report commissioned by the department of infrastructure development last year, which was presented to the province last month.

Gauteng provincial government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said heads of departments would reveal decisions on plans regarding whether or not to move the workers from non-compliant buildings at a meeting tomorrow.

Although Masebe declined to share the report with City Press, stating that it was “internal”, he revealed that the nine buildings fell way below the norm of 85% compliance with the act.

“In fact, none of these nine buildings achieved 50% compliance. All heads of department are currently studying the report in detail to identify factors that require urgent attention to ensure compliance with the act. An urgent decision will be made in the next few days regarding the necessary measures to ensure compliance,” said Masebe.

He said departments would decide, in accordance with what was detailed in the report, on what could be done to address issues raised in the report.

Factors to be decided on include what could be fixed in the short term that would entail not moving workers or whether workers would be required to be moved to fix issues.

Details about the report surfaced after the Bank of Lisbon, situated at 37 Sauer Street in the Johannesburg CBD, housing the departments of health and human settlements, caught fire on Wednesday, which claimed the lives of three firefighters.

The nine non-complying buildings are:

. 75 Fox Street, which houses the employees of Treasury and e-Government;

. Absa building, which houses the employees of the social development department;

. Corner House, which houses the employees of the department of infrastructure development;

. SA Perm, another building housing the department of social development;

. 30 Simmonds Street, the office of the Gauteng premier;

. Thusanong building, which also houses the department of social development;

. Bank of Lisbon;

. Sage Building, which houses the department of roads and transport; and

. Old Reserve Bank, which is unoccupied.

In the meantime, calls have been made for heads to roll following the fire. This follows a revelation by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union that it raised concerns about the safety of workers back in 2014.

A worker who was among 1 115 housed in the Bank of Lisbon said the place had always been faulty and they had complained about it, but no one took their grievances seriously.

“We have been complaining about our place of work for a long time. They always wait for something bad to happen before they can react, now innocent people have died. The place would sometimes have no electricity, toilets and sewages would be blocked, and we kept on working under those conditions.”

The worker said their superiors knew that the building was not safe.

“They couldn’t care less because they worked in comfortable offices. She added that everyone was aware of the report, which stated that the building was not compliant.”

During a press briefing at Lutsiga House on Wednesday, MEC for Infrastructure Development Jacob Mamabolo said he knew that the building was non-compliant, but denied they knew it was a disaster waiting to happen.

“We received a report that pointed out non-compliance. I spoke to that myself and went public on it. We were open and transparent on that issue that indeed the buildings were found not to be compliant, particularly the Bank of Lisbon, and that we received reports just last week,” said Mamabolo.

He said the reports did not write off the building, even though it was only 21% compliant.

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