PUBLIC safety mayoral committee member (MMC) Dr Mgcini Tshwaku has slammed the Gauteng provincial government for not heeding safety concerns ahead of naming the Parktown building as the venue for the now-postponed commission of inquiry into the Marshalltown building fire.
On Monday, the commission investigating the deaths of 77 people following the fire at Usindiso Building in August was forced to stop its activities due to the condition of the Parktown building.
Chairperson of the commission, retired Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe, said the work of the commission would be postponed indefinitely after it was notified by Joburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) that the venue was not in compliance with the by-laws of the city.
“The commission is currently looking at securing a new venue for the proceedings,” she said.
Tshwaku said the building was not safe to be used as it had previously been flagged for its defects and non-compliance issues.
“It is crucial to emphasise that the City of Johannesburg‘s EMS had previously flagged the building for non-complaint regarding fire safety standards. The same building was intended to be the venue for the commission of inquiry on taxi violence.
“Despite clear concerns voiced by the EMS during planning meetings, the provincial government, as hosts of the Usindiso Commission, did not adequately consult with the City of Joburg (COJ). Further to that, they also did not conduct mandatory planned meetings as stipulated by law before taking the decision to use the building for for the commission,” Tshwaku said.
“The importance of such consultations cannot be understated, especially when it comes to the COJ’s EMS had already declared the building non-compliant. It is thus critical for the provincial government to recognise the significance of fostering collaborative relationship with the COJ municipality.
“By so doing, they can ensure adherence to the city’s by-laws and guarantee the safety and appropriateness of selected venues,” he said.
An attorney representing the COJ, Tshiamo Sedumedi, told the media that the municipality’s by-laws required the venue to have more than one emergency exit route.
“At some point on Friday, the headcount exceeded 25, which is why the EMS had to then issue that notice to the commissioners.”
He said according to the City’s emergency management by-laws, any business that fails to comply with regulations is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine on conviction.