Fire fighter Mduduzi Ndlovu's family, father Sibusiso and sister Zandile.

JOHANNESBURG- Whenever Zandile, 47, speaks about her brother- the late firefighter Mduduzi Ndlovu- she is overcome with emotion.

Tears fill her eyes. She tries to to hold them back but the pain just gets too much and she breaks down. September 5 will always be the day that's etched in her memory as it was the day that forever changed the lives of the Ndlovus.

The day started fairly well for everyone but they later received shattering news.

Ndlovu, a firefighter living and working in Joburg had together with his colleagues rushed to the Bank of Lisbon building in the CBD that was on fire.

Unfortunately, Ndlovu and two other firefighters, Simphiwe Moropane and Khathutshelo Muedi, were trapped in the building and later died.

However, for Zandile, what hurt the family more was the manner in which her brother died...after being badly burnt trying to extinguishing the fire.

"He died a painful death and we have not accepted that he is dead. He was okay and suddenly he is dead...it's really not easy to accept that," the 47 year old says breaking down.

"Speaking about this opens up wounds," she says.

Simphiwe Moropane, Mduduzi Ndlovu and Khathutshelo Muedi,  the three firefighter who died while battling a blaze at the Bank of Lisbon Building in the Joburg CBD.

Zandile was speaking at The Star where the paper was paying a special tribute to the dead firefighters as well as their families.

The families of Moropane and Muedi were also present.

Ndlovu just had a traditional engagement to his fiancee a few months ago and the couple was still planning their wedding when he died.

According to his father Sibusiso, 67, as soon as Ndlovu finished matric, he left his Newcastle home in KwaZulu Natal and came to Joburg looking for a job.

He got one as a security guard. His proud father says although his son had a job he was not complacent. He studied part time and later later got a job as a fire fighter.  

"He loved his job; he respected it. Even on the 31st of December when we are at home, busy braaing and having fun, if he had to be on duty on the 1st, he would leave us and drive all the way to Joburg," Zandile recalls.

A few years into his job, Ndlovu bought himself a double cab bakkie and later in life when his finances got better, he gave it to his father and bought himself a BMW.

It was a gift that took his father completely by surprise.

"He really was a good person, humble and humane. That bakkie always reminds me of him.

However, Sibusiso's life came crashing down on September 5 when one of his grandchildren told him that there had been an accident in Johannesburg and that Ndlovu had died.

Sibusiso was in a daze and did not want to believe it. While still pondering the news he received a call from Ndlovu's friends who also told him that his son was no more and that confirmed that his son was indeed gone.

Sibusiso said although they knew the dangers that came with his son's job, it was not something that they used to think about.

"We were always relaxed and never worried and when I heard that he was dead, I could not believe it," he says.

Ndlovu leaves behind four children.

Besides the families of the firefighters, Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, MMC for Public Safety, Michael Sun, Fire Chief Arthur Mqwa, members of Emergency Services and the Johannesburg Metro Police were also in attendance.

It was reported that the building had been non-compliant and was unfit for occupation and Mashaba said the fire had been an accident waiting to happen.

"This tragic incident is a clear sign of what happens when there is a breakdown of the rule of law. There are things in life that I accept to be accidents but some I accept as things that were bound to happen.

"In this case, where we lost three of our colleagues...is it an accident? Yes, it is an accident but it is an accident which was bound to happen when you allow buildings to deteriorate to this level. It is very sad."

The Star's editor Japhet Ncube said staff at his publication shared the families' pain.

"When this tragedy happened many of us were in this building. It’s something that you don’t expect to see; it touched us.

We followed the story until the end. But we thought we can’t just do the story and end there. We said, 'let us try to find a way to honour brave fighters who saved the lives of may people' which is why we are here this morning."

After the incident in which the three men died, The Star cartoonist Bethuel Mangena had done a cartoon depicting a firefighter kneeling down next to a burning building, tears running down his face.

Mangena said the drawing was inspired by the fact that the late firefighters believed in prayer.

The Star gave each family, as well as the mayor, a copy of the framed artwork.

The Star