NO OFFICIAL complaint had been lodged with the Department of Labour regarding the state of Poyntons building in the Pretoria CBD, the home of the Department of Correctional Services.
The building was shut down by Executive Mayor Solly Msimanga on Wednesday, who said it was a “death trap”.
The Department of Labour said that had a complaint been received, it would have sent its own people to assess the state of the building and made an informed decision.
Director-General Thobile Lamati said: “Without taking sides, Msimanga’s administration has the power to shut buildings down.”
He said municipalities, just like the Department of Labour, could shut down buildings based on by-laws and health and safety standards.
However, he said, employers or departments had the right to legally challenge evacuations.
Lamati said his department had closed down some of its offices in Joburg and Durban where the health and safety of staff were found to be have been compromised.
In fact, on Tuesday, the department started inspecting the controversial Department of Health headquarters, Civitas, in the CBD.
Following the evacuation of staff and shut down of Poyntons by Msimanga, spokesperson for the Correctional Services Ministry Mukoni Ratshitanga said the department was considering legal action against the City administration, Emergency Services and Msimanga.
He said staff were not working, and that threatened the security of the country and City because some of the instructions to the department’s 243 prisons were given from Poyntons.
“The claim by Msimanga’s office that it gave the minister (advocate Michael Masutha) prior warning about the shutdown is false and they know it.
“Msimanga only called Masutha after the closure and by that time he had posted on Facebook what he had just done.
“We believe this closure has nothing to do with health and safety. Correctional Services accepted that the building was not in a desirable state of safety standards.
“We were addressing all the elements pointed out by the City and providing progress reports. We were shocked by the shutdown because on September 7, we sent a progress report and the City expressly said it appreciated it.”
However, Msimanga’s spokesperson Samkelo Mgobozi said the City stood by its decision. He said the claim that the department was not given prior warning about the shutdown was simply not true. “This is not the first time the City has engaged with the Ministry to correct all defects in the building. The department had two years to ensure that the building was compliant, but failed to do that.
“What is of great concern here is not necessarily the closure of the building, but the fact that the ministry and the management continued to put people’s lives in danger by expecting employees to continue to work in a building that is partially compliant by the minister’s own admission.”
Mgobozi said the City certainly had other health and safety high-risk buildings that were acknowledged by the mayor.
Lamati said his department had long taken a decision that it would not expose corporate or government employees to bad working conditions, and it was sending its officials to inspect businesses and departments objectively.
He said that thus far a contravention notice was issued to a police station in Kwa-Thema and prohibition notices to a branch of the SA Post Office and Tshwane University of Technology.