‘Those responsible for George building collapse must account’

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in the Western Cape wants people responsible for the George building collapse to be held accountable for the deaths of workers.

According to Numsa, the tragedy serves as a devastating warning that the working class must not make the mistake of electing its own butchers to power.

This comes after a building in George collapsed earlier this week, killing at least nine workers. The death toll has risen to 12 after three more bodies were found on Friday.

According to reports, 81 workers were on site at the time of the disaster, and 37 have been rescued so far, with 15 in critical condition. Six people face life-threatening injuries, and seven are nursing minor injuries.

On Friday, Numsa acting regional secretary in the Western Cape, Thabo Mbebe, said the union cannot be neutral in cases like this.

“This is a truly terrible tragedy of unimaginable proportions. As a union, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, and we hope that the remaining workers will be rescued soon,” said Mbebe.

Foreign nationals hired

He said Numsa visited the scene and listened to allegations that foreign nationals from Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe were hired to work on the building.

“There is an unconfirmed allegation that these foreign nationals were undocumented citizens who are exploited by the employer through low wages and poor conditions,” said Mbebe.

He stated that the union’s position is to defend foreign nationals because their status as immigrants makes them vulnerable.

He added that whistleblower Patrick Maseko, who worked at the construction site, revealed to the media that the owners of the building had allegedly cut corners by putting in weak pillars, which, in his view, would not have been able to hold up the building properly.

“He claimed the pillars were not strong enough to support the building. This is a very serious allegation because if it is true, it means the owner is directly responsible for the deaths of the workers.“

He said that Numsa would continue to watch the situation closely.

“We hope that all the remaining workers will be found safely and returned to their families.

“And our prayers are with the families of those who are mourning loved ones, and also those who are anxiously waiting for the safe return of their beloved family members.”

Heavy machinery brought in

Meanwhile, the rescue operation has reached 90 hours as the municipality brought heavy earth-moving machinery to assist in rescue and recovery operations.

George municipality spokesperson Chantel Edwards said the earth-moving machinery arrived on Thursday.

“The rescue operation continues to be a multi-agency approach, involving local excavation contractors and the district roads engineer,” said Edwards.

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