No accountability for Gauteng Health fire despite a damning report

No action has been taken following the damning findings of a report on the fire that started four years ago at the Gauteng Health Department’s head office at the Bank of Lisbon building. This led to the death of three firefighters, and the damaged building has been demolished.

Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko revealed this information in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Nkomo-Ralehoko, an Occupational Health and Safely Incident Investigation report was done by the Department of Labour in conjunction with South African Police Services (SAPS) shortly after the fire on 5 September 2018.

It was handed over to the Department of Health and concluded as follows:

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 is serviced and in good working
condition in case of fire.

Despite these findings, no action has been taken against anyone for these severe lapses that led to the fire that devastated the entire building.

The Health MEC says: “No further investigations are anticipated as far as we have established unless there are developments that have not been communicated to us.”

I have been trying for years to get the details of investigation reports on the BOL fire. Former Premier David Makhura kept promising to make public a “consolidated” report but this never happened.

According to Makhura, there were four investigations. These were done by the SA Police Service, the City of Johannesburg, the Provincial Government and the Department of Labour.

Nkomo-Ralehoko says “investigation reports are never communicated publicly, it is left with the discretion of the report owner.”

I suspect there has been a cover-up of the fire reports to avoid the accountability of senior ANC politicians.

Immediately after the fire, I laid criminal charges of culpable homicide against then Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and Infrastructure Development MEC Jacob Mamabolo 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.

Meanwhile, the families of the firefighters who died do not have closure for the loss of their loved ones.

I will continue to press for all the fire reports to be made public so those at fault are held accountable.