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R7bn bill to repair unsafe buildings

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the Bank of Lisbon building in the Joburg CBD last year September. /SANDILE NDLOVU
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the Bank of Lisbon building in the Joburg CBD last year September. /SANDILE NDLOVU

The Gauteng government spends more than R30m a month renting properties as some of its own buildings are so derelict and unsafe they had to be evacuated.

The province owns 18 properties in the Johannesburg inner city, with nine of them unoccupied due to occupational safety concerns.

Refurbishment of the buildings has yet to start but it is estimated it will cost about R7bn.

Infrastructure department spokesperson Bongiwe Gambu told Sowetan that in the previous financial year, the department spent over R357m renting property for the provincial government.

Gauteng has had to enter into lease agreements with other landlords as half of its buildings cannot be used because they were not compliant with occupational health and safety standards.

The safety of the buildings came under the spotlight after a fire razed the Bank of Lisbon building in September last year, resulting in the death of three firefighters.

The building had housed government employees from different departments.

In March this year, the Gauteng government announced plans to demolish the building, and said that a contractor for the job had already been appointed.

Earlier this week, Gauteng infrastructure development MEC Tasneem Motara told journalists the department was on course in dealing with issues of safety in properties leased to the department.

"Finally we developed an implementation plan to address the major work to be undertaken. We have to date completed the emergency intervention work, and all departments have returned to their buildings," Motara said.

She said they were are currently implementing all major works in line with the assessment report in order to bring all the buildings up to full compliance.

"Our long-term plan is to implement the Kopanong Precinct Project, which will see the full refurbishment of all 18 government-owned buildings in the Johannesburg CBD," Motara said.

Bethuel Netshiswinzhe, head of the infrastructure development department, told Sowetan that a plan had been developed to upgrade all 18 buildings in the Johannesburg inner city so that they comply with health and safety laws.

"The nine that are not occupied are some of the old buildings .in the last few years, two of the buildings had to be condemned by the department," he said.

Netshiswinzhe said the planning work for the refurbishment of the other nine has started.

"We are busy going through an approval stage of a public-private partnership.

"We hope that before the end of this year we will have issued a request for proposals to appoint developers," said Netshiswinzhe.

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