Hundreds of employees of the eight stores destroyed during the early morning blaze on Monday in central Mahikeng could be faced with a bleak Christmas if their employers decide that the “business interest” of their businesses come first. The “shops” attached to the Boxer Supermarket next the local taxi rank were grazed to the ground when fire which started in one of the stores spread across the entire complex and led to Mahikeng suffering its greatest loss in recent years.
Would-be customers who had already put clothes and other goodies for their children away as lay-buys at many of the affected shops were disappointed when they witnessed the stores going up in flames with the Mahikeng Fire Department being unable to protect the shops from the fierce fire. The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) said they would engage the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) for protection of the workers and their jobs. The sight of thick plumes of black smoke rising in the air in the form of a funnel at the Boxer store and surrounding shops provided a frightening spectacle for the citizens of Mahikeng as they descended on to the CBD. People from all walks of life stood at a distance bemoaning the loss of property engulfed in flames as seven shops were razed to the ground right in front of their eyes. By yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) fire investigators would still not say what had caused the fire which was described as indeed a tragic loss and a huge setback for the capital city of the North West Province as the fire occurred on the eve of the festive season. Indeed the incident was an important wake-up call for both the Mahikeng Local Municipality and Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality. MLM took all the blame as the workers’ union, South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) lashed out at the municipality under the leadership of mayor, Betty Diakanyo “for failing the people of Mahikeng, the Fire department and the general poorest of the poor as far as service delivery was concerned”. SAAMWU chairperson, Joseph Qelesile said they were disappointed that even after ten years, the municipality had failed to provide the fire department with properly functioning fire engines and other equipment. “This city will be destroyed by fire and there will be nothing that the fire fighters will be able to do because of lack of adequate resources. We have again learnt that this is an incapacitated department which is totally lacking in resources. The mayor and her officials must be ashamed that these stores were destroyed right in front of their eyes and there was nothing they could do to help”, said the disappointed Qelisile. We hope that the managements of the affected stores will remain merciful towards the employees who could face tough times ahead of the festive season and when their children return to school next year.