Health department's serious legal documents go up in smoke in Joburg's fatal fire

Fire, which resulted in the death of three firefighters, continue to ravage the government building in the Johannesburg city centre.
Fire, which resulted in the death of three firefighters, continue to ravage the government building in the Johannesburg city centre.
Image: Masi Losi

Serious legal documents which relate to high-profile cases against the Gauteng department of health have been lost in the fire still raging on at its Pixley ka Isaka Seme Street, head office in the Johannesburg CBD.

This was an admission made by the chief financial officer (CFO) of the Gauteng health department, Kabelo Lehloenya, during a portfolio committee meeting in the Gauteng legislature on Thursday.

“In terms of data lost on hard copies, we have suffered a massive blow. That I must concede to. Even in my office as the CFO, we had a lot of documents, HOD, we had a lot of hard copies there. We sign memos almost on a daily basis. That information indeed has been lost.

“I just want to state to the members that you only have the office of the head of legal that is stationed at BOL (Bank of Lisbon building that burnt down). Processing and directors and everybody else are all stationed at [the building on] diagonal Street. A lot of the files are still there but indeed we did lose quite a good number of files, and those files that have been lost at BOL are of critical cases because obviously the files that would be at the head of legal would be important files,” said Lehloenya.

The blaze that engulfed the upper levels of the Gauteng Health Department building in the Johannesburg CBD on September 5 2018, continued to spread to the lower levels of the building on September 6 2018.

However, she added, some of these files will be rebuilt as the head of legal did not lose his desktop in the fire.

The Bank of Lisbon building went up in flames on Wednesday and claimed the lives of three firefighters.The building housed departments of health, human settlements and cooperative governance and traditional affairs.

Officials of the health department told the committee that MEC for health Gwen Ramokgopa has already shortened her trip in Australia and is heading back to the country to deal with the crisis facing her department.

Lehloenya told the committee that senior management will be able to start their work on Friday and that heads of different units in the department have been instructed to call meetings to brief workers on the recovery plan. The fire that hit the building started in the legal office.

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