Faulty transformers lead to closure of Joburg Metro Centre
The building caught fire on Saturday.
Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda delivers the State of the City Address at the Johannesburg council chambers in Braamfontein, 6 June. Pic Neil McCartney
Faulty transformers have led to the immediate closure of the Johannesburg Metro Centre, after the building caught fire on Saturday.
The building, located in Braamfontein, housed offices for city mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, city manager Floyd Brink, and Speaker Colleen Makhubele. They have been moved out of the building.
Brink and Joburg Property Company CEO Helen Botes and other officials were expected to brief the media on the fire but postponed the briefing due to “unforeseen circumstances”.
“The briefing will be rescheduled in the next 48 hours,” read a statement.
— Joburg Property Company SOC Ltd (JPC) (@jhbproperty) September 19, 2023
In a leaked internal memo reportedly signed by Botes, she recommended the building be closed, and officials given alternative workspace.
“Last week, the service provider determined, that the transformers are problematic. We are awaiting a full diagnostic report, from the service provider, in this regard.
“The Engineer’s Report of 2019, which we submitted to the council, flagged this issue. It also stated that the transformers were 40 years old, at that time,” it read.
Fires continue to wreak havoc
Saturday’s fire adds to a concerning trend of fire outbreaks in the city’s CBD over the last few weeks.
In August, at least 77 people died in a tragic incident when a fire broke out in the Usindiso Building last week. Among the deceased were 12 children.
Another fire broke out two blocks away from the building last week. The fire broke out on the first floor of a three-story suspected hijacked building where residents had set up shacks.
EMS spokesperson Xolile Khumalo told The Citizen there were no injuries and everyone was evacuated.
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 that 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.
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.