Mashaba pays a final tribute to 3 brave firefighters



The Moropane, Muedi and Ndlovu families, first of all I want to express my deepest sympathy.

I can not imagine the pain and sorrow in your heart.

But in this time of great sadness I hope that you can find comfort in the deep gratitude of the people of Johannesburg.

Secondly, allow me to extend my greetings to the acting Chief of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services, Mr Arthur Mqwa,

Our EMS Fire Fighters and Senior Management,

The acting Prime Minister of Gauteng, Hon. Uhuru Moiloa,

President of the Council, Cllr Vasco da Gama,

MMC for public safety, Cllr Michael Sun,

Members of the Mayoral Committee,

Council members and officials of the city of Johannesburg,

Distinguished guests,

Members of the media,

Inmates,

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I truly believe that every inhabitant of this city is with you today, as they have been since last week's tragedy.

None of us will ever forget what happened last Wednesday, the day that September 5, 2018 – our worst collective nightmare – jumped out of the shadows and brutally claimed three valued members of the Johannesburg family.

On that day – exactly one week in the day – black smoke poured from the Bank of Lisbon building in the CBD, and firefighters rushed to the scene and fought bravely despite incredibly difficult conditions.

Once again, neighbors, friends, relatives and heroes have been taken away from us.

At the moment, the grief and the anger we feel are more than we can bear. No word can do justice to the sacrifice that has been made or to the grief we feel.

Yet, even in the depths of our grief, we know that there is more than sadness here: there is courage, there is virtue and there is honor.

So today we stop to celebrate the lives of three of our best soldiers.

Although I never had the honor to meet Fire Fighters Moropane, Muedi and Ndlovu, I was amazed at the many comments made about these three heroes.

It is clear that they have touched the lives of many in a positive way.

How many of us who have gathered here today can say that they were part of the foundations of their community or were considered part of the fabric of society?

No one will ever forget here how the daily acts of kindness and generosity of Simphiwe, Khathutsheli and Mduduzi have contributed to making the wider community of Johannesburg such a special place.

Their legacy will certainly live on in every house, on every pavement, in every garden and on every corner of this incredible city we all call home.

Above all, our three heroes will be remembered as family people.

Indeed, they loved and loved their families in a special way.

How else can they explain their decision to risk life and limbs to save others?

Only a deep and profound love for family and for humanity could have motivated our colleagues to make the professional choices they made.

In any case, we should not accept the statement that their chosen careers were inherently dangerous and therefore their tragic deaths were not entirely unexpected.

I do not accept this explanation.

Not under the circumstances that our brothers lost their lives.

It was heartbreaking to read a short but powerful tribute, on social media, by the wife of Fire Fighter Moropane to her husband.

When I saw the photo's of Simphiwe with his young children, I wondered: who would wear them now?

Every resident of Johannesburg and the wider family of the city of Johannesburg would take over the firefighters. Moropane, Muedi and Ndlovu took off.

At difficult times like these, relatives often find comfort in the presence of colleagues, family, neighbors and friends, but it is when we all have departed that the reality of a beloved dawn is lost.

As people who have lived through the death of a loved one, we all know what a solitary experience it can be to wake up in the days after the funeral of a person who was always present in our daily lives.

While everyone just goes on, we are left behind to pick up the pieces.

In this case, I can not imagine how the widows of our three heroes will explain to their little children why their fathers are no longer present.

This is where the family comes in.

To the Moropane, Muedi and Ndlovu families, these young women and mothers surround.

Pack them with love and warmth and while they will occasionally feel moments of sadness and loneliness, do not let that be the result of your actions.

Please, be the perfect embodiment of the love of God.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Firefighters are a special brotherhood whose ties are formed by the omnipresence of danger – and Simphiwe, Khathutsheli and Mduduzi were beloved members of that fraternity.

But nothing illustrates their greatness as citizens more than their ultimate sacrifice. The tragic events of last week must remind us of the incredible bravery of firefighters everywhere.

When there is fire everywhere in this city, our firefighters respond: "Send me."

When the call came that the Bank of Lisbon building was on fire and that the innocent lives of employees of various provincial government departments were in danger, the men and women of the EMS did not hesitate.

And on September 5, when the call came again, firefighters Moropane, Muedi and Ndlovu refused.

They answered the call of duty, undoubtedly with the lives of others on top of the mind.

Maybe they were also worried for their own country.

While they were running from their station to the Johannesburg CBD, they followed the same treacherous path that innumerable others had followed in previous years.

When they finally arrived at the place of the fire and summoned a glimpse of the deadly flames, they must have realized that there was no way back.

They jumped into it, as they had rehearsed many times, and began with the task of engaging in the worst horror a firefighter could imagine.

It is tragic that the conditions, some of which simply had not had to do, conspired to make their rescue effort a hell.

They lost their lives unnecessarily.

Today, when we mourn our brave heroes and comfort their loving families and celebrate their memory, let us also make a resolution, a dedication to ourselves and to each other: let us work to earn the courage and bravery they showed.

Let's start by uncovering the truth about what happened, asking for answers to the unanswered questions and then doing what it takes to have a tragedy like this never happen again.

Let's take a good look at this building and decide whether it can be recovered and repaired or whether it needs to be demolished.

Let's also spread the net wide and look at other buildings – both private and government property – in Gauteng and the rest of the country.

I can not imagine that it will be an inconvenience for us to show that we care about the welfare and safety of our compatriots.

Of course not.

Elected officials and public representatives like myself quickly win a reputation because they do not worry about the lives of ordinary South Africans.

We are no longer seen as servants of the people.

And how else can we claim that the death of our firefighters could have been avoided if appropriate action had been taken?

I ask this question because information available to us indicates that complaints have been raised about the Bank of Lisbon building since 2014.

Moreover, there appears to be a report showing that this building only meets 21% health and safety standards at work, against the 85% standard, and that this information was known to the authorities since 27 August this year.

I insist that I have questioned the safety of most buildings in the inner city.

On December 1, 2016, I sharply cited the issue of derelict buildings, their safety and how they contributed to the scourge of crime and general lawlessness in the city center.

Although I expected a positive reaction, I got a laugh and a counterfeit instead.

This reaction asked me if the city of Johannesburg had ever had a government.

A government, simply defined, is a mechanism by which the policy of the organization is maintained.

With so many lives at risk, you have to ask yourself: what were those who came to govern us and what policy did they maintain all this time?

Well, we have decided to take hard action.

I would like to announce that the City will intensify raids on buildings that have been hijacked and that every effort will be made to return them to their rightful owners.

Those who are uninhabitable will be condemned.

Another crucial element of this exercise is to take back our inner city of criminal syndicates who use abandoned and hijacked buildings for criminal means.

We will do this to honor our fallen heroes.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The building tragedy of the Bank of Lisbon is not the first.

In May 2015, Fire Fighters Michael Letsosa and Daniel Zwane lost their lives in a fire in the Nedbank building in the CBD, on Albertina Sisulu Street.

They were stuck in the basement of the burning building.

During the deployment of the crew, the team was fragmented under the leadership of the commander of the incident, in which individual members became disoriented and lost.

The commander of the incident managed to find his way out of the building while Firefighters Letsosa and Zwane unfortunately lost their lives.

From a May 2016 report to the incident, it appeared that there was no question of conducting breathing apparatus procedures, that the fan with positive pressure ventilation was stopped in the building, that the mechanical ventilation of the building was not activated and that live wires were being exposed.

Although some recommendations were made, including the training for our firefighters, I am not satisfied that we know what really happened in that tragedy.

That is why I feel compelled to re-open that research to get the full extent of the fire disaster of the Nedbank Mall.

After the tragedy of the Bank of Lisbon, I can only imagine how low the morale of our firefighters must have sunk.

But I want to assure you that we take every step to limit the possibility of such a disaster occurring again.

Myself and City Manager, Dr. Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni, work around the clock to purchase 25 new fire engines. The money has already been allocated.

This is essential in the short and long term, because we currently have 15 fire engines, but only a fraction is functional.

Due to years of neglect, the EMS fire brigade has never been adequately maintained or replaced.

The supplier to whom the supply contract was awarded by the previous administration went into rescue operations and could not deliver the fire engine as ordered.

To further worsen the situation, we discovered that the contract was full of illegals and allegations of corruption, the contract had to be canceled.

However, we have been able to rescue 7 fire engines (5 new, 2 newly refurbished) fire engines from that contract.

Even in these extremely challenging situations, our EMS and firefighters continue to serve the residents of Johannesburg.

Commitments have been made by the Public Safety MMC to speed up the resolution of some of the problems that EMS is facing.

An essential part of eliminating fires similar to those in the Nedbank Mall and the buildings of the Bank of Lisbon includes the rejuvenation of our inner city.

Put simply, and flatly, we have to rebuild our inner city. In this way we can be sure that our buildings are safe and livable.

This is especially necessary because we have so far identified 500 buildings that have either been hijacked or left behind and most are in a bad state.

To this end, we have set up specialized units to combat the scourge of hijacked buildings and to enforce compliance with the building regulations.

Inmates,

Let's pause and pay tribute to all our firefighters who have left a life of material gain, security and comfort and have chosen to enter the most dangerous arena of all, so that we can be protected.

A special thank you also goes to Mayor Solly Msimanga and mayor Mzwandile Masina, as well as the firefighters of OR Tambo International Airport, because they were with us during our time of need.

We will be with you in your time of need as you have been with us.

And to our fallen heroes, may you rest in peace.


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