VIDEO: Moving memorial for three fallen firefighters opens sore wounds

Family members are consoled at the wreath-laying ceremony for the fallen firefighters on 12 September.

Emotions ran high on 12 September as the City of Johannesburg’s and other emergency responders bid a final farewell to the three firefighters who died fighting a blaze in the Bank of Lisbon building in the inner city on 5 September.

Simphiwe Moropane, Khathutshelo Muedi, and Mduduzi Ndlovu were honoured during a wreath-laying ceremony outside the building and a memorial service at Ellis Park. It was here that the voice of anger and sadness came from firefighters. One placard held up by an EMS employee read, ‘We demand danger allowance R4000’.

Public Safety MMC Michael Sun at the wreath-laying ceremony on 12 September.

The firefighters’ helmets are carried at the wreath-laying ceremony.

With both Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (Demawusa) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) behind them, the firefighters aired their frustrations with government for the buildings being non-compliant. One revealed that the building did not have water and that at one point they had to fight the fire using their hands.

Demawusa’s Terrence Kgaffe asked why money is set aside to bail out state-owned entities, but none is set aside to better equip firefighters.

“Bail South African EMS out and buy equipment to save lives,” he said.

The unions now want to sue the government for negligence of the unsafe building. Addressing firefighters and EMS at the memorial, Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the Gauteng government knew the building was unsafe but allowed it to be used. During his address at the memorial, Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba said he hoped the firefighters’ families can find comfort in the profound gratitute of the people of Johannesburg.

“Let us begin by uncovering the truth about what happened, demanding answers to the unanswered questions, and then doing whatever is necessary to make sure a tragedy like this one never happens again.

“Let us look closely at that building and decide whether it can be salvaged and repaired or whether it should be taken down. Let’s also spread the net out wide and look at other buildings – both private- and government-owned – in Gauteng and the rest of the country.”

Simphiwe Moropane, Khathutshelo Muedi, and Mduduzi Ndlovu were honoured during a wreath-laying ceremony outside the building and a memorial service at Ellis Park.

Firefighters pay their respects to their fallen colleagues at the Bank of Lisbon building.

Mashaba said the City is working around the clock to acquire 25 new fire engines, the money already being allocated. The City currently only has round 15 working fire engines.

Around 500 buildings that have either been hijacked or abandoned have been identified to date and Mashaba said most are in a bad state.

 

 

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  AUTHOR
Chantelle Fourie

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