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SOWETAN | Government drops ball on public safety

Bree street in the Johanneburg CBD after an explotion on Wednesday.
Bree street in the Johanneburg CBD after an explotion on Wednesday.
Image: Antonio Muchave

It is no secret that SA’s public infrastructure is collapsing because of neglect and lack of maintenance, which continue to threaten and undermine public safety.

Yet every time an infrastructure-related disaster happens, we react with shock and surprise, struggling to make sense of what has happened. So many questions and so few answers from the authorities.

Sadly, news of explosions and death of citizens are becoming commonplace despite public safety being an essential part of a binding contract between citizens and the government.

The unexplained explosion on Lillian Ngoyi Street [formerly Bree] in the Joburg CBD, which had killed one person and left over 40 injured by Thursday, is yet another example of the failure to address this public safety concern. The incident has also highlighted how unprepared the government is for emergencies, despite obvious signs of potential danger that are evident daily.

There have been suspicions of illegal mining likely to be the cause of the explosion, and to be honest, these are not baseless. Several warnings have been issued on the dangers posed by illegal mining to the city’s infrastructure and human life, but none have been addressed. If illegal mining  would be found to be the cause, it would indicate another failure to take responsibility before a disaster takes place to prevent it.

But whatever the cause of the explosion is, be it illegal mining, accidental gas leak or electricity infrastructure failure, we should be better prepared so when things go wrong, we know what to do to save lives.

The explosion in the Joburg CBD has not only left people injured and claimed one life, but has also displaced hundreds of others who live and work in the city centre and stripped business owners of their livelihoods, leaving them in despair and uncertainty.

Yet yesterday, the authorities were still scrambling to provide a clear plan on how to accommodate residents who need to be relocated while assessments are being done on the structural safety of the properties affected by the blast.

It is likely to take months, if not years, to fix the damage left behind. Where will the money come from as it is well established that the City of Joburg is in financial distress? The government owes the citizens assurance on how safe they are in the city from further disaster.

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