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JOHANNESBURG BREAKING

Fire at Joburg Metro Centre causes immediate closure — mayor, city manager and Speaker moved out

Fire at Joburg Metro Centre causes immediate closure — mayor, city manager and Speaker moved out
Metro Centre Braamfontein. (Photo: Supplied)

A weekend fire caused by faulty transformers at the Joburg Metro has shut down the building responsible for administering the city.  

Emergency services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi confirmed the 16 September fire to Daily Maverick on Monday morning. He said there were no injuries and that it was contained in time. 

There is no electricity in the building.

The city did not put out a communiqué about the fire but has announced a briefing on Tuesday (19 September). 

This is the second fire in the Metro building this year — the previous one was in March. This week, a bid evaluation committee will seek approval from city manager Floyd Brink for a R2-billion refurbishment of the Metro Centre. In May, Daily Maverick reported on creating a campus for the building that will cost the cash-strapped city a fortune, whether out of pocket or via a public-private partnership.  

The aftermath of the fire in the Metro building in Joburg. (Photo: Supplied)

In a memo seen by Daily Maverick and sent by Johannesburg Property Company CEO Helen Botes to Brink this morning (18 September), she recommends that the building be shut. 

“Last week the service provider determined that the transformers are problematic. A 2019 engineers report also highlighted the state of the transformers (which were then 40 years old),” said Botes. 

She said the closure of the building was recommended as a “measure of absolute precaution”. 

The city describes the civic centre as the heart of the city’s services — emergency, planning, and administration and the Council is run from the building. Johannesburg employs 48,000 staff, many of whom are based at the offices. The city plans to ‘decant’ all the staff to nearby leased facilities while the complete revamp occurs. 

Botes now wants to put her foot on the accelerator of the plan. 

“In terms of decanting of Metro Centre, the team is currently concluding the evaluation of requests for proposals (for the refurb). We are likely to submit a report on the work of the bid evaluation committee on the Metro Centre to the Executive Adjudication Committee for consideration and approval by the City Manager next week.”  

Kabelo Gwamanda, Joburg gas blast

Executive Mayor of Joburg Kabelo Gwamanda during an oversight visit on July 24, 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle)

Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, Brink and Speaker Colleen Makhubele will immediately move out of the Metro Centre.  

The city’s emergency services have responded to more than 200 inner-city fires this year, said Mulaudzi. A devastating fire at 80 Albert Street, a former apartheid pass office and shelter turned hijacked building, claimed 77 lives on 31 August, 2023.

Last Friday, a fire broke out in a three-storey building in Delver St in the Joburg city centre. Nobody was injured. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mike Blackburn says:

    Like it or not, this is a symptom of the ongoing lack of maintenance of city properties which has been endemic since the ANC ejected the old guard and replaced them with deployees.

    Once again the long suffering Joburg rate payers will have their rates used for non service delivery purposes. I’ll be practicing my surprised expression for when the rates again are engineered upwards by fiddling of property values next year.

  • Rob Wilson says:

    Once again, ‘faulty’ and ‘old’ are being used to describe the mess which has been systematically engineered (excuse the pun) by decades of increasing incompetence. Like a humans lifespan, every single piece of man mad equipment or the built environment has a usage limit, and it is influenced by maintenance and abuse. To electrical switch gear, load shedding is abuse, and load shedding retricts ability to maintain, even if there is will and competence to do so. Expect more.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I totally agree with you. The country is literally dying because of, as you say routine maintenance.
      I lived and worked for 25 yrs in S Africa and consider it my adopted home and it is there where my ashes will be scattered.
      Cry My Beloved Country 😥😢

  • Patrick Devine says:

    48 000 employees???

    WTF do they do?

    Because working on or for Joburg is obviously NOT what they actually do every day.

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    …”A weekend fire caused by faulty transformation at the Joburg Metro has shut down the building responsible for maladministering the city.”…

    There… fixed the headline… you’re welcome.

  • John Baker says:

    What is happening whe politicians suddenly start talking about “decanting” human beings with reference to Alexander hostels and the Metro Center. The definition of decanting is to pour liquid from one vessel to another usually to leave the dregs behind.

  • norman mokone says:

    This incompetence can be traced as far back as 1997 when the Munitoria building, a municipal building in Pretoria, burnt down. A fire that took nearly 4 days and 252 fire fighters to put out. Back then loadshedding was non existent and yet lack of maintenance and stewardship thrived among the political elite. Unfortunately it continues to thrive to this day.

  • Johan Buys says:

    It takes at most 12 weeks to replace a couple of transformers. Hint : go for dry resin Air cooled this time.

    • Joseph du Hecquet says:

      12 weeks to replace the transformers? Well here’s an idea, Give the 48 000 employees 12 weeks unpaid leave, save ourselves a fortune and see if it makes any difference to the running of the city. If it makes little difference then start mass layoffs and start from scratch again.

  • Clive Seete Malumise says:

    I find it difficult to understand that city of joburg how is collapsing and how the building managers and engineers what is their duty. Really this is puzzling as nobody wants to take the responsibility pf neglect and thus far in a short space of time official building is burning and what more to expect to see from now ? Like really our beautiful city is going down the drain like that.

    • Brian Cotter says:

      It could come back to Maintenance Department to ask for budget for replacement of or maintenance funds and then those applications have been turned down because of lack of money. Maybe this should be asked for so there can be independent audit.
      It would be interesting to see the Municipality Risk Register and if the Maintenance Department had directly included refusal of maintenance funds risk gives a RED alarm.
      Can the Risk Register be published for this event and also burning buildings et al?
      Can the press ask for this?

    • Ben Harper says:

      Where have you been for the past 30 years?

  • Cornay Bester says:

    And Luthuli House?!

  • David Pennington says:

    Everything that they touch……….

    ..

  • Richard Robinson says:

    One word … ineptitude.

  • carollyn says:

    The state of the COJ building has been steadily declining for the past 15 years. In the past 5 years the decay of the building has been rapid and the general cleaning of the building has been nothing short of disgraceful for “the wealthiest metro” in the country. The state of the City of Johannesburg Metro Centre is an embarrassment to its citizens.
    That said, there are a number of questions that have not been answered by COJ and JPC – Why was this building left to go to wreck and ruin? Who funds the urgent re-location of the staff and COJ departments? ~Who benefits from this urgent real estate deal? (broking commissions, facilitation fees etc) The quantum of R2billion to refurbish the Metro Centre is being bandied about by officials – to the property development industry this sounds exorbitant for this single building – where will the COJ get the money to undertake this project and at what critical projects will not be undertaken – water? electricity? roads? etc
    There are too many unanswered questions. The COJ is clearly indicating its disconnect to its constituents and its disinterest in upholding the integrity of its Constitutional Mandate to provide a functioning municipality.

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