Calls for risk assessment of Joburg CBD buildings after several ‘mind-boggling’ fires

Johannesburg Safety MMC Mgcini Tshwaku has called for a risk assessment of buildings in the CBD after several “mind-boggling” fires. ...

Johannesburg Safety MMC Mgcini Tshwaku has called for a risk assessment of buildings in the CBD after several “mind-boggling” fires. 

On Wednesday, a South African Revenue Services (Sars) building in the district caught fire at Fredderick and Rissik Street. The fire was contained to the basement level, which is used for storage. No injuries were reported. 

ALSO READ: Yet another fire in Joburg CBD – this time at Sars building in Marshalltown

The recent fire added to a concerning trend of fire outbreaks in the city’s CBD over the last few weeks, including the Johannesburg Metro Centre on Saturday and the Usindiso Building, where at least 77 people died. 

Mind-boggling fires

“One of the things that we are going to call for is that each and every building must do a fire risk and safety assessment to check because these fires are mind-boggling,” said Tshwaku. 

“Here [the Sars building] is a basement, an archiving area and no one goes in there, but it caught fire. We really need to check what is happening.”

Tshwaku said it would be “interesting” to find out that what happened at the Sars building was the same thing that happened at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

The fire that ravaged the hospital in 2021 was reportedly caused by arson.

Commission of inquiry into the fire

Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi appointed a commission of inquiry into the fire at the Usindiso building in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Lesufi said the primary objective of the commission was to conduct a comprehensive investigation to uncover potential factors contributing to the tragic incident.

“We felt a complete and comprehensive probe was necessary to mitigate the chances of something similar happening again.

“It will be allowed to conduct its work without any undue political interference from anyone and will be given all the necessary logistical support by the Gauteng Provincial Government,” said Lesufi.

READ MORE: Faulty transformers lead to closure of Joburg Metro Centre

The commission’s work would be carried out in two distinct phases, he said. 

“The first phase will examine the circumstances surrounding the Usindiso Building, while the second phase will focus on determining accountability for the resulting loss of life and injuries. Furthermore, the commission will make recommendations regarding necessary actions and responsible parties, addressing all pertinent matters within the scope of the inquiry.”

Lesufi said the timeline for the commission’s work would be from October 1 to November 30. 

He said the commission would submit its report on the first phase of the inquiry by December 30. 

“The second part of the investigation will commence on January 1 and end on March 31 2024. The commission will then prepare and submit a report with the second part of the investigation before or by April 30 2024,” said the premier.

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