No fire truck: ‘Part of Komani gone’

FIRE SCENE: The former J.C.Marshall Art Gallery and Craft Hub building was in
flames on Monday evening Picture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

No police: CPF volunteers try save old craft hub

The former Chris Hani Craft Hub building belonging to Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality was consumed by heavy flames on Monday night.

If it were not for the fire-fighter volunteers from the Community Policing forum (CPF) managing to contain the fire, further damage would probably have occurred.

The fire started a few minutes before 11pm.

Not only was the municipal fire engine unavailable, municipal staff, except the chief, were a no-show.

The police, who were said to have been contacted, were also nowhere to be seen either.

Chris Hani District Municipality could not provide back-up as its fire engines had been dispatched to other areas in the district.

Apparently this was the fourth fire to have erupted in the building.

The Rep reported ‘Incompetence’ cause of historical building’s demise, August 6, that
a homeless person had been found seated near a fire inside the building.

At the recent fire incident scene, the CPF’s Juan van der Walt said: “This is a part of Komani that is gone.

We reported this to the municipality and this is what happened. We have asked
the council to get the building barricaded at least, so that people cannot get in, to get
old zincs to close the window and doors because this was always going to happen.’’

Van der Walt said the CPF had chased away people living there many times, but they kept returning.

”They were making fires and had a sheet of zinc on the floor.

”We would come with fire extinguishers to put it out and the next day it would be back.

This is prime property. The council could have sold this building and made money, but they let it go to ruin.’’

He remarked that the way Komani was going, the art gallery was now one of many vandalised and abandoned buildings.

As far the officials being a no-show, van der Walt said: ‘They were all phoned.

The municipal manager said she was leaving it in the hands of the fire chief.

”How do you leave it in the hands of a fire chief when he does not have any resources to fight the fire with?’’

He said the town was in a massive crisis where it would eventually reach a tipping point.

He added that there was an ”I do not care attitude”.
”How do you not even come out and watch your own resources burn down?

”We have no horses in this race, but we care that much for our town. We have families at home and we are not fire fighters, but we are here. We cannot give up.’’

EMLM DA councillor Zuko Mandile, who was also at the scene, said the municipality was paying for security gaurds to look after municipal buildings, something that former ANC councillor Mncedisi Mbengo had also alluded to in recent months.

But EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa rejected claims.

Mandile said: “The municipality’s fire engine has not been repaired as there were no funds to pay the service provider.’’

However Kowa said the fire engine was undergoing repairs, and  the municipality was not aware of struggles to pay the service provider.

”As soon as repairs are done, payment will be made and the fire engine will be back.’’

But no time frames were given.

On whether municipality would rebuild the structure through insurance claims, he said the municipality
was engaging in internal processes aimed at rebuilding it.

”It is true that Enoch Mgijima was in advanced stages of leasing the building out again.

”A number of times, the building has been refurbished, only to be vandalised and left in a bad state.

It is unfortunately not financially possible to have security
personnel at all facilities 24 hours a day.

”Electricity infrastructure has also not been spared by thieves and vandals’’

Police spokesperson Namhla Mdleleni said a case of arson had been opened. “The police were only informed about the incident at around 4am on Tuesday, when they immediately headed to the scene.’’