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