The Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) has raised concerns about the state of deteriorating fire stations in Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, including that of North West's capital city, Mahikeng.
The state of the municipality’s fire department is being scrutinised following the massive blaze that engulfed large parts of South Africa’s oldest hotel, Mmabatho Palms, last week.
IMATU's deputy chairperson, Mmamaqashela Mkubeni, said lack of equipment at the fire station makes it hard for firefighters to do their work.
“The Mahikeng fire station is much better when compared to other municipality's fire stations. But they don’t have fire engines, they have the equipment. So how can they take the equipment to the scene of a fire if they don’t have fire engines? The Mahikeng Municipality fire engines went for repairs three years ago and never returned," said Mkubeni.
“The municipality currently has one fire engine and borrowed one fire engine from the airport, the yellow one that was used to extinguish fire at Mmabatho Palms hotel. And it is not like the ones that they currently in use are in a good condition. If they would be taken to the department of traffic they would be declared unroadworthy,” she said.
The IMATU leader added that employees are also exploited.
“The firefighters are demoralized. This is because the municipality uses internship workers that have been interns for four-years. The municipality is not willing to employ them on a permanent basis, and we don’t know why.
“In 2018 there were 20 vacancies that were advertised by the municipality for firefighters. All processes were followed in the recruitment process of those positions. The candidates went to the fitness test program and also went for interviews, but when they were supposed to be hired the municipality then said it had no budget to accommodate them,” she said.
Mahikeng Local Municipality spokesperson, Johny Nkoane, said the municipality is attending to the challenges identified.
“We only have one fire engine and borrowed one from the airport. But we do have plans to buy new fire engines. We just have to budget for them because one fire engine is worth R8 million. We estimated that it would take the municipality up to five years to buy new fire engines. So we intend to budget for one fire engine in each financial year,” Nkoane said.
He continued: “The internship workers were initially in an internship program with SITA for a period of a year. So when they completed their SITA internship program, the municipality then gave them a three month’s renewal contracts. This because they're our children, we need them, and we have given them the necessary training that is needed for the job. So we intend to include them in the current financial year. We have made a provision to advertise 50 fire fighters vacancies in the near future".