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Safety of government buildings in the spotlight after Parliament fire

The Department of Labour(DoL) building in Durban is still undergoing renovations, but is expected to re-open in March.

The Department of Labour(DoL) building in Durban is still undergoing renovations, but is expected to re-open in March.

Published Jan 10, 2022


The Department of Labour(DoL) building in Durban is still undergoing renovations, but is expected to re-open in March.


The long-awaited re-opening of the Department of Labour (DoL) building on Margaret Mncadi Avenue (formerly Victoria Embankment) is set for March.

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Deemed unsafe and not fit for use in 2016, the department was forced to shut the building in October of that year. It has been undergoing renovation and repair ever since

The Department of Public Works, the building’s custodians, confirmed on Friday that the first phase of the work was now complete and they were on track for the March re-opening.

In 2016, the Public Servants Association (PSA) obtained a court order compelling the Department of Labour to vacate the building due to it being unsafe.

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Since the closure, services such as Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits, maternity and sick benefits, death and injured-on-duty claims and other worker-related matters have been handled by other labour centres in Durban.

The Department of Public Works and its operations have come under intense scrutiny following a major fire that severely damaged Parliament buildings in Cape Town last week.

A 49-year-old man was arrested in connection with the fire and made his first appearance on Tuesday last week in the Cape Town magistrate’s court.

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Zandile Mafe faces charges of arson, housebreaking and theft, among others.

Other public buildings in Durban deemed unfit for use include the Durban High Court, next door to the Department of Labour building.

The courthouse has also closed its doors.

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The Department of Public Works confirmed that the Durban magistrate’s court was under construction, but is now complete and the handover was done in December.

Refurbishments and repairs to the High Court building are expected to be completed in 2025. Until then, High Court operations and functions will be conducted at the Durban magistrate’s court building on Somtseu and Stalwart Simelane streets.

Department of Public Works spokesperson Thamsanqa Mchunu said renovations and construction at the Department of Labour building were still going on.

“The first phase of work (ground, first, second and a portion of the third floor) was handed back to the client. The remainder is anticipated to be completed by the end of March.”

Mchunu confirmed the High Court’s relocation to the Durban magistrate’s court building.

PSA national manager Claude Naiker said the union was happy the labour building was being renovated and would now be a safe environment for employees.

“Almost all services previously offered at the building have now been restored. The PSA will always ensure that all government buildings are a safe and conducive environment for employees to work in,” he added.

Mchunu, referring to the Excelsior Court public building on Peter Mokaba (Ridge) Road, in Morningside – which has also raised numerous questions from residents and others about its dilapidated state – said the building was currently managed by the SA Police Service.

“The building cannot be renovated due to illegal persons who have moved in – either due to sub-letting from the SAPS side, or else off the street,” he said.