Delay in Lisbon Bank fire report questioned

The department of Health, and Human Settlements building fire in Gauteng, which claimed the lives of three firefighters in 2018. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

The department of Health, and Human Settlements building fire in Gauteng, which claimed the lives of three firefighters in 2018. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 7, 2023


Johannesburg - Families of firefighters Simphiwe Moropane, Mduduzi Ndlovu and Khathutshelo Muedi, who died in the horror Bank of Lisbon building fire, are yet to get closure.

On September 5, 2018, the trio lost their lives while trying to douse an inferno on the top of the building used by the Gauteng government.

Five years have passed since then, but the police report has still not been completed.

This has been disclosed by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi in a written reply to DA spokesperson on health Jack Bloom’s questions in the Gauteng legislature.

According to Lesufi, the Department of Labour report was received on September 19 last year, but the SAPS report has not been received.

There is also a report by the City of Joburg and provincial government.

“The report from SAPS remains outstanding; as soon as the report is received, a date and the release of the reports will be communicated,” said Lesufi in a written response to The Star.

Bloom said former premier David Makhura had indicated that all the investigations would be completed by September 2021 and that there would be a consolidated report that would be made public, but there has been endless stalling in this matter.

Bloom said the failure of the SAPS to complete their investigation was either astounding incompetence or a deliberate delay to protect ANC politicians and senior officials who should be held accountable for the fire.

“Lesufi’s reply contradicts Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko’s reply to me last year, when she said no further investigations were anticipated as far as we have established, unless there are developments that have not been communicated to us.

“… an Occupational Health and Safety Incident Investigation Report was done by the Department of Labour in conjunction with SAPS shortly after the fire on September 5, 2018,” said Bloom. He said that it concluded:

1. The fire suppression systems were not installed in offices occupied by the Health and Human Settlements departments.

2. Both tenant departments did not request the certificate of occupancy from the landlord, which they had an obligation to do.

3. Both tenant departments did not conduct risk assessments of occupancy and further contravened the Environmental Regulations for Workplaces 9 (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993, by failing to ensure that firefighting equipment was serviced and in good working condition in case of fire.

“I suspect the reports are not released because they implicate former health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and then-infrastructure development MEC Jacob Mamabolo. Immediately after the fire, I laid charges of culpable homicide against them for 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.

“Mamabolo is presently the Gauteng Finance MEC, and Gwen Ramokgopa is now the ANC treasurer-general,” Bloom said.

He said the families of the firefighters who died have not had closure. Bloom questioned the use of investigations that were never made public and acted on.

“The DA will use the Promotion of Access to Information Act to ensure all the reports are made public. We cannot have a situation where there is no accountability for fires where people die, as happened last week in Joburg.”

The Star