Nehawu protests at Bank of Lisbon fire wreath-laying ceremony

The Bank of Lisbon building, which caught fire in September 2018 in Johannesburg. Picture: Gallo Images
The Bank of Lisbon building, which caught fire in September 2018 in Johannesburg. Picture: Gallo Images

The Gauteng department of health commemorated the one-year anniversary of the fire at the Bank of Lisbon building in central Johannesburg, which happened on September 5 last year.

The fire ravaged the building, which was the headquarters for the department of health and human settlements, as well as the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs.

Three firefighters, Mduduzi Ndlovu, Khathutshello Muedi and Simphiwe Moropana, died fighting the fire. The firefighters were honoured with a wreath-laying ceremony, and a plaque displaying their names was also unveiled.

Speaking at the ceremony, Gauteng MEC for health, Dr Bandile Masuku, said that the fire exposed the need for the Gauteng government to investigate the state of all government buildings in the province. Masuku said his department was committed to ensuring that the buildings adhered to occupational health and safety standards.

Dr Bandile Masuku MEC for health in Gauteng and family members of the firefighters who died during the Bank of Lisbon fire last year, commemorate those who lost their lives.. Picture: Sthembiso Lebuso

A forensic report detailing the cause of the fire, which is still with the SA Police Service, has not yet been completed, leading to members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) disrupting the wreath-laying ceremony earlier today.

During the ceremony, members of the union called for action against the department’s senior management. Donald Phasha, the branch secretary for Nehawu in Johannesburg, said that government needed to take responsibility for the fact that the building was rundown and that people should not have been working there because it was unsafe.

“They are protecting themselves,” Phasha said, and added that commemoration event was a PR stunt.

Masuku said that the firefighters who died made a great sacrifice: “These men have gone beyond their call of duty. In their last moments, they displayed a sense of high regard for service and others.”

Donald Phasha branch secretary for Nehawu in Johannesburg says that Government must take responsibility for the Bank of Lisbon fire. Picture: Sthembiso Lebuso

Masuku said that he hoped that the firefighters’ commitment to service inspired all other government employees to serve with diligence and commitment.

“In remembrance of our fallen brothers, may we fight the good fight and ensure that what has happened is never repeated,’’ Masuku said.

Robert Moropane, firefighter Simphiwe’s father, said that he was happy that government was honouring his son and the other firefighters, but he was disappointed that government failed to keep the promise it made after the fire.

“We were told that we would be kept updated about the cause of the fire, but we’ve had to hound authorities to get updates,” Moropane said.

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