Yesterday evening Gulf Complex became the latest victim of building fires that have ravaged a lot of Harare’s buildings. A large section of the complex, the part near Market Square, bus terminus was completely scorched although the other sections were left undamaged.
Gulf complex is a popular destination for those who want to buy cheap imported electrical items including cheap brand China phones, Android tablets, solar panels, batteries, LED TV sets, inverters and other similar goods. It is where most people who want have their cheap phones repaired or flashed and to load pirated music onto their memory cards go to receive service.
The complex is closed at the moment as police have sealed it with ropes as they carry out investigations. Scores of traders who have stalls were milling around the area while those who own stalls in the burned down section were being interviewed by the police inside the perimeter.
It’s not clear what caused the fire but there has been a recent surge in building fires in Harare CBD with the complex being the latest victim. The section that burnt down appears to be old, if I were to speculate I would blame some sort of electrical fault. With poor fire codes a single spark is all it takes.
City councils across the country must educate people about fire hazards and steps are needed to minimise fire damage in case of break outs. At the moment a lot of businesses are fire disasters waiting to happen. Most tall buildings in the CBD do not have a fire escape, the lifts do not work and the occupants never have fire drills.
A lot of buildings do not have a fire alarm either. In other countries fire safety is baked in buildings. Disasters such as the Grenfell tower have served as lessons of what can happen in cases of complacency. In comparison nowadays most people in Zimbabwe are not even sure who or which number to call whenever fire breaks out.
New buildings should implement technologies such as cladding, automatic sprinklers, fire escapes, smoke detectors and a linked fire alarm that alerts the fire brigade in the event of an emergency. The Zimbabwean government needs to put in more effort in the way in which 999/444 calls are handled. The current lethargic attitude in unacceptable.
Sadly it seems we need our own Grenfell before the authorities take these fires seriously. Even then I doubt much will change. Not in a city where the city fathers cannot even deliver drinking water to all the suburbs.