Joburg Fire: 'Govt killed our brothers' – firefighter

A firefighter from Central Fire Station in Johannesburg has laid the blame for last Wednesday's tragedy, in which three firefighters died, at the door of government. 

Muzikayise Zwane says that on that fateful day last week, firefighters did not stand a chance against the Bank of Lisbon Building, adding that it was the non-compliance of the building that led to the deaths of his colleagues. 

"We didn't expect to go into a building with no water and fight off the fire with our bare burning hands," Zwane told the mourners at the City of Johannesburg official memorial service at Ellis Park Arena on Wednesday. 

"Government killed our brothers by administering a building which was 21% compliant, nothing is right in Johannesburg," Zwane told mourners gathered at the stadium.

READ: Mamabolo prepared to 'take the fall' for Joburg fire if a probe finds him guilty

Simphiwe Moropane, 28, died after he slipped and fell from the 23rd floor of the building. He had run out of oxygen and had gone to the ledge to try to get air.  

Zwane recalled the chilling moment he heard glass break as Moropane plunged to his death.

"I looked out the window and I saw his body was crushed beyond recognition," he said. 

The other two firefighters, Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40, and Khathutshelo Muedi, 37, died from lack of oxygen after they became trapped in the building.

Zwane did not hold back and further lambasted individuals who had shared their opinions on social media about firefighters being unfit for service.

"Should these people have joined us in this rescue mission, they would have perished on the 1st floor. They wouldn't have made it to the 23rd floor like the rest of us," Zwane said. 

Firefighter Simphiwe Sibiya shared similar sentiments, saying he was hurt by comments that the firefighters had not been equipped to fight fires in high-rise buildings. 

"We have been fighting fires high-rise buildings for years, we know what we are doing," he said.

Questions have been raised about who should be held responsible for last week's blaze.

However, Sibiya cautioned that this was not the time to play the blame game. 

"If we play the blame game, we will not grow. We did not come here to find out who did what we came to say goodbye to our brothers," he concluded to a rousing applause from the crowd.

Unions told News24 last week that they had raised concerns about safety issues at the building, which housed the Gauteng departments of health, human settlements and cooperative governance and traditional affairs, prior to Wednesday's fire.