Picture: The Star
Picture: The Star

Firefighters recall the pain, horror of #JoburgFire

By Siphumelele Khumalo and Sthembiso Sithole Time of article published Sep 12, 2018

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Johannesburg - “What's done is done - and at the end of the day, a person's destiny lies in the hands of God." 

These were the painful and accepting words of a colleague of the three fallen fighters who died last week at the Lisbon building putting out a fire. 

Simphiwe Sibiya was speaking at the official memorial service of Simphiwe Moropane, Mduduzi Ndlovu and Khathutshelo Muedi who died last week. 

Sibiya said if the building that was housing three government departments complied to all the safety standards, they would have successfully managed to put the fire. 

"I saw the fire behave in another way. And that is because the building did not comply. I've never seen that and it's a painful lesson more so, because I learned through people's lives," he said

Another firefighter Muzikayise echoed Sibiya’s message and said whenever the Jo'burg Mayor Herman Mashaba said he wants to demolish unsafe buildings, people suddenly have "rights". 

"Where are our rights now? People say that firefighters are unfit,” he said. 

Zwane said he was shocked that there was no water in the building. 

He says he heard a huge bang and when he looked down, it was his colleague. “He was a smashed mince.”  

Zwane said at some point, they had to fight the fire using their hands. 

Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the death of three firefighters at the Bank of Lisbon Building in the Joburg CBD couldn’t been avoided. 

Vavi is amongst hundreds of mourners who gathered at Ellis Park Arena for the official memorial service for the fallen heroes. 

“What is making us angry is that, this thing shouldn’t have happened. The building didn’t have a fire extinguishers. How can people work in such a building. We are going to sue them,” Vavi said. 

In the morning, there was a laying of wreaths ceremony outside the building that used to house three government departments. 

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba attended the ceremony. 

Family members of the late firefighters also attended with some crying for their loved ones. 

Photos of the firefighters were placed next to the stage with candles. Members of EMS sang songs in honour of their colleagues. 

Businessman Kenny Kunene is some of the dignities attending the memorial service. 

The Star

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