Komani (Queenstown) residents stood watching helplessly in the early hours of Saturday morning as the town hall burned to the ground.
Emergency services were alerted to the scene around 23:00 Friday night, but the local fire truck has been awaiting repairs for months, and is currently still without engine.
Members of the Community Police Forum and other volunteers made every effort to prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings, but little could be done to save the iconic town hall. It is alleged that the fire had started under the stage of the hall where the archives were being kept, but the actual cause of the fire has not been disclosed.
This brings the number of Enoch Mgijima municipal buildings that have gone up in flames in the past two years to four. All four buildings were said to contain valuable and sensitive municipal records, including records of foul play and maladministration within the municipal halls.
While the municipality’s press release on the matter is still in the making, the DA has strongly condemned the ongoing neglect of municipal infrastructure and lack of basic services.
“The municipality alleges that they have no money for repairs, yet they have funds to purchase a brand-new vehicle to the value of R671 550 for the Speaker, and this was done without a council resolution,” said a disgruntled Jane Cowly, MPL and Enoch Mgijima constituency leader.
“Imagine the difference this amount could have made to the municipal firefighting department! They could have paid for the repairs to the fire-truck engine, purchased new equipment and uniforms, and would have been in a position to save the beautiful town hall.”
The town hall’s foundation was laid in 1882, and the clock tower added in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.
This report will be updated as soon as a media statement is released by the Enoch Mgijima Municipality.