Staff told to vacate unsafe health department head office in Pretoria
The sprinkler system, ventilation system and activators in the Civitas building are not working, and structural repairs related to waterproofing ‘have safety and health effects’
Labour department inspectors have issued a prohibition notice against the health department’s head office in Pretoria, citing it was unsafe and unhealthy for employees.
The department ordered its employees to vacate the Civitas, offices on Monday following the notice.
Workers have been in a protracted battle with the department and health minister Aaron Motsoaledi over the state of the building, following numerous reports of employees falling ill due to the conditions they were subjected to at the offices.
On Monday, the department was prohibited from “allowing employees to occupy the Civitas building as it continues to be unsafe and unhealthy for employees”.
According to the notice, the sprinkler system pump, ventilation systems and activators in the building are not working while structural repairs related to waterproofing “have safety and health effects”.
Civitas was originally built in 1971 to accommodate the home affairs department and was renovated between 2007 and 2010. It houses 1,500 employees in its 29-storey south tower and eight-storey north tower.
In the past few months, the department threatened employees who refused to work in the building with disciplinary action.
The department conceded that the building could be maintained better, but insisted it was not inhabitable.
In a communiqué to staff on Monday, the health department director-general Malebona Matsotso said they would “take over the maintenance of the Civitas building and employees will [be] informed on their return to the building until it has been declared safe by the department of labour’’.
The Public Servants Association welcomed the recommendation by the inspectors saying it had been engaging the department about the state of the building since April.
Various departments in Gauteng, as well as national departments, have complained about the condition of government offices after the Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg caught fire, killing three fireman.
Nine government buildings in Gauteng were evacuated after the fire, when they filed to meet health and safety standards.