Sunday marked three years since a devastating fire killed three firefighters and gutted the Gauteng health department’s head offices at the Bank of Lisbon building.
But for Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng shadow MEC for health, Jack Bloom, there has still been no accountability for the incident, and information owed to grieving families has been left wanting.
Bloom said no explanation has been offered in the delay in presenting the findings of investigations conducted by the police, the City of Johannesburg, the Gauteng government and the department of labour.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has committed to giving a consolidated report at the end of September.
“I suspect that senior ANC politicians could face criminal charges as a result of the fire, as well as officials who were negligent in preventing it,” Bloom said in a statement.
He said after the fire, he laid culpable homicide charges against then-health MEC Gwen Ramakgopa, and then-Infrastructure and Development MEC Jacob Mamabolo. This related to “negligence in not setting up a functioning occupational health and safety committee for the building, and for ignoring multiple warnings from unions and staff about the fire hazard”.
A few days after the fire, the DA said evidence pointed towards the Gauteng government wilfully ignoring multiple warnings about the unsafe nature of the building for years.
It emerged at the time that at least 10 of the building’s 24 floors were non-compliant before the fire, and should have been evacuated. Bloom said the lack of water was also a major factor that hindered firefighting efforts, and contributed to the deaths of three firefighters.
Even then, Bloom called for a judicial commission of inquiry, as well as an independent assessment, “very much like the Esidimeni disaster”.
After the fire, department of human settlements employees were relocated to a building which posed similar dangers, they said in September 2019.
Even in 2019, Gauteng health department MEC spokesperson Kwara Kekana admitted the investigation into the fire had not been completed.
“It is important that justice is seen to be done, instead of long investigates that allow politicians to evade accountability and add to the distress of families who seek closure for the loss of their loved ones,” Bloom said.
He added the DA would be holding Makhura to his commitment to release the report, and “will push for accountability, including criminal charges, where warranted”.
Compiled by Nica Richards