Health department calls for police to act on sabotage at its HQ

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.
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.

The national health department on Friday condemned acts of sabotage at its Civitas Building head office in Pretoria.

“There were two arson attempts this week‚ with the most recent yesterday afternoon with a fire set on the 14th floor [on Thursday afternoon] whilst there were still people in the building‚” the department said.

“Fortunately‚ the alarms went off and staff [members] were able to extinguish the blaze – otherwise the results might have been lethal.”

Other examples of sabotage include disabling smoke detectors‚ disabling security cameras‚ breaking locks and forced entry to the building and its control rooms and wiring cut soon after contractors had repaired air-conditioning units.

The department said it condemned these life-threatening acts.

It called on law enforcement agencies to investigate these criminal activities.

Since April this year‚ department employees in Civitas have protested over their working conditions.

The department said its head office‚ although poorly maintained‚ was not a death trap; Civitas had never been declared uninhabitable by all authorities that have assessed the building.

When people said the building was uninhabitable‚ they were mostly referring to the heat‚ ventilation and cooling system‚ according to the department.

It said poor maintenance by the department of public works had resulted in the air-conditioner malfunctioning.

The health department said the Department of Public Works accepted that the system must be functional at all times because the building has no windows that can be open.

One of the features of an unsafe building was the risk of fire but‚ said the department‚ Civitas has five security features‚ including smoke detectors‚ fire alarms‚ an integrated sprinkler system throughout the building and portable fire extinguishers.

“What has come to light over the past two weeks‚ which has intensified this week‚ are deliberate acts of sabotage which are targeting these [security features] to make them dysfunctional at Civitas building.”

The departments of health and public works‚ in a joint statement‚ said they were now dealing with a concerted campaign of criminal – and potentially lethal - sabotage.

“We call on law enforcement to investigate these criminal activities. We will also be intensifying the security at our buildings.”

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