Ghana Melcom Department Store Building Collapses -Incompetence & Tragedy

Today I am once again with continual paradoxes of my two nations. As I woke up today elated as a thankful and proud American who together with my fellow Americans have once again risen to the challenge to show the world that we are far better than our “isms” and those who try to use those “isms” to divide us as a nation; Sooner than I could have time to truly celebrate I was hit with the tradegy of my other nation of Ghana having a department store building collapse on what is said to be over 50 employees of Melcom in the capital city of Accra with 3 confirmed dead and the death toll said to possibly rise.

Rescue efforts are under way, with officials saying that at least three people died in the Melcom store. The BBC’s Sammy Darko, who is at the scene, says 10 people have been pulled alive from the rubble so far. Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama said he had suspended his campaign for next month’s election. The government has declared the area in the city’s Achimota neighbourhood a disaster zone.

“There’s so much noise that it’s not possible to hear the trapped people asking for help”

Vice-President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur is at the site, co-ordinating rescue efforts at the building, which opened earlier this year. Hundreds of rescuers are digging through the rubble, amid fears that dozens of people are trapped inside, our correspondent says.

Mr Amissah-Arthur said the building collapsed shortly before the Melcom store was due to open for business. Rescue efforts were being hampered by the large crowd that had gathered at the site, he added.

“There’s so much noise that it’s not possible to hear the trapped people asking for help,” Mr Amissah-Arthur said. “If we could move out of here, it could help rescue operations.”

In a statement on its Facebook page, Melcom said it had rented the building which housed its Achimota branch on a 10-year lease.

“This is indeed a very tragic incident,” it said. “We are doing everything possible to see that help reaches those who need it. Our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies goes to the families of those who may have lost their lives.READ MORE

It seems that the foreign owners of Melcom are trying to throw the Ghanaian owner of the building which they leased for 10 years under the proverbial bus for this tragedy. The Indian owners of Melcom should  have insurance to operate such a business along with proper permits and inspections prior to opening for operation, but the question still remains whether they actually did or not. The building owner and construction company should be prosecuted because they allegedly didn’t even have a building permit. Ghana has laws and agencies in place that pick and choose when and if they do their job to inspect. I have had the horror experience of going with my mother back and forth to pay for and get all the paperwork necessary to be able to build her private house-so how can a multi story shopping center be built by one party and then rented & operated by a second party without any inspections in a nation that is ripe for hurricanes and other natural disasters synonymous with tropical areas?

There is plenty of fault in mismanagement and incompetence to go around in a money talks country and over all continent where this attitude has been bringing on constant murderous clashes between foreign employers and local workers from Ghana, to South Africa, to Zambia and all points in between.

African governments often give these so called foreign investors impunity while kowtowing in apologies to foreign owners when the people decide to take matters into their own hands to strike and go on their own murderous rampage because they have had enough of feeling worthless and powerless. We know all too well that money will be found to be the root of this evil and even in attaining any justice unless Ghanaians stand up and demand otherwise. As the story behind the collapse unravels the complete disregard for human life becomes more and more infuriating as this tragedy could have been completely avoided. Melcom had known days before the building collapse that there were cracks in its facade while employees were basically working in a Melcom coffin that was slowly closing its lid on them. I am sure those employees who complained of the cracking facade who were told to take pictures to be sent and approved by the Melcom head office  days before the entire building fell on them would have rather prepared for a Paa Joe made in Ghana coffin than one made by Melcom.

When i heard the cracking, it didn’t even take two minutes before the building just collapsed. It took a long while before i was eventually rescued. I was helped by one of the rescuers who saw my hand.”

“We were many where i was, and we struggled to come out.”

She said she had earlier seen the cracks about three days ago when she was decorating the pillars. But she personally did not report it.

Another survivor, Evelyn, a security personnel at the Melcom Shopping Mall, broke her leg and was receiving treatment at the Achimota Hospital. She disclosed that a few days ago, some of the workers had seen cracks on pillars of the building. After lodging a complaint to the managers, they were asked to take pictures of it, which they did. However, they were later told that the pictures needed to be taken to Melcom’s head office for approval before the necessary renovations would be done. But they never heard anything about it until the collapse.” Read More

Now it turns out that Melcom insured their goods but not their workers. Who do we blame Melcom or the climate set up for multinationals doing business in Ghana where they are not liable or required to insure their employees for anything that happens to them in the workplace as a basic requirement of doing business? Until Ghanaians care about their own lives no on else will…from slavery to Colonialism to NeoColonialism…the African tragedy continues.

As I frantically call my family members returning the love, care and concern they showed me as they called me just last week after New York and New Jersey were hit with hurricane Sandy and declared disaster areas; I can’t help but to hope and pray that Ghanaians will come together and show the resilience, care and love of community that New York and New Jersey have and continue to show to get over our tradegey. I hope that we can also put our political and other differences aside, and most of all the penchant for far too many Ghanaians to want to be the boss in charge with a selfish focus of giving instructions while nothing gets done to help with the search and rescue of those who are still trapped under the rubble. We must get together as one Ghana to demand that our leaders do much better by us as we prepare to go to the ballot box next month. The time of the complacent, irreverant, nonchalant, it be so Ghanaian citizen is past. We have to be and to want better for ourselves and the future of our children.

Ghana must face the music of our continual incompetence in government and as a people and truly be able to look at our nation face to face, not in the glossy eyes of the world still basking in past glories that have been long gone since the Nkrumah era. Every Ghanaian knows very well that we have multinational companies that come into our nation and wipe their asses with our laws/lack of laws, our lack of leadership and the not so invisible elephant in the room that says money can buy anything, anyone and everything including getting away with shoddy construction work and even building without permits that may now cause us unnecessary casualties of priceless life.

We need to raise a better nation of people and show as Dr. Nkrumah said  “That new Africa is ready to figt his own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs”. I am sick of being sick and tired of hearing our leaders talk about foreign investment and private sector investment as the answer to get anything and everything done in Ghana. What do we elect leaders to do- just collect money from foreign investors as they sell off everything that is ours including our dignity and the very lives which we are supposed to love, honor and cherish? I thought this went out the door with colonialism and slavery. Ghana has become a nation of lawlessness from the peddler on the street to the peddler in cheif (s). We must face ourselves as a nation and not only demand better of our leaders, but also demand better of ourselves. We are a nation accepting and living in filth, overidden by foreigners who are ruling over every aspect of our livelihood from galamasey cohorts to telcoms like MTN who make billions a year in profit from African nations and take it out of the continent, while the government and the people of  nations like Ghana see very little in tax revenue and reinvestment into the nation for basic needs, operations and projects necessary to bring us infrastructurelly, physically and mentally into the modern age of technology.

This building collapse is symbolic of a collapsing Ghana when it comes to what we allow multinationals and unscrupulous Ghanaians to get away with, and what we have for far too long allowed our government to talk away with without putting in the work to fix anything. The scary part of this tragedy was the fact that most people in Ghana and around the world worried that Ghana would not have the facilitates, manpower and organization from government to civil services of police, firefighters, medical care etc. to even be able to save lives.  Many Ghanaians walk around saying “By God’s Grace” to everything about their lives and it is truly by God’s grace that we have been able to survive under such deplorable conditions for so long at the hands of ourselves and our governments. Many will pray hard today and some may even question how God can allow such tragedy on his watch- but we must remember “The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” We must wake up as a people and  see that the glorified new riches of our nation serve a small amount of Ghanaians with false dreams of attaining said wealth peddled to the masses. We must teach and carve our future through our actions because government can not be expected to do everything or anything without the demand and partnership of the people to move the nation toward a common goal for the future. As Fredrick Douglas said:

“If there is no struggle..there is no progress..those who profess to Favor Freedom and yet depreciate agitation want crops without plowing up the ground…they want the ocean without the awful roar of it’s many waters..Power concedes nothing without demand.”
On December 7th what will Ghana’s future be? I must say that I am concerned because as I read the comments of Ghanaians on social media networks, I don’t see much critical thinking and holding those that want their vote accountable for the horrors that are currently facing Ghana/Ghanaians who seem to accept & enable corruption, failing education system, lack of basic steady power to function and to do business daily even though we sell power to other nearby nations, inadequate health services, deplorable sanitation systems, inferior housing and construction, lack of a real beneficial system of free intra African trade or global trade, lack of jobs for youth, lackluster so called infrastructural projects that never seem to get completed even though millions in loans, contracts and aid are taken and given, foreign nationals and illegal miners taking over the nation where Ghanaian citizens live in fear of losing even the little that they have and sometimes even their lives, the eroding value of currency and the tremendous gap between the haves & the have nots. Rather I hear the usual undying allegiances to political parties and tribalism with citizens whose votes can be easily bought for a few cedis, empty promises & bikes -which is a shame for a nation that was once the beacon of African freedom & independence void of party politicks and tribalism.

As the late great Shirley Chisholm said “The only thing that you have going my brothers and sisters, there’

s only 1 thing you have going…your 1 vote…Don’t sell that vote out…find out what these candidates who need our votes to get across the top are going to do for us concretely not oratorically…In Unity There is Strength

It is about time that we take the bull by the horn and bring about true vision and action in moving our nation forward again- not  tomorrow but NOW! I pray that as of now the casualty toll of 3 will remain that way and not get any higher, but I also pray that Ghanaians will come together and truly put in the work and vision for a better Ghana because we deserve it and so do our children, as well as our grand-parents and great grandparents who are still living- who put everything on the line to push out colonialism in place of freedom to never again open the doors for as Dr. Nkrumah said- “Neo-Colonialism“.

Revolutions are brought about by men, by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought...Africa is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism. Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below the soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa’s impoverishment…from now on, today, we must change our attitudes and our minds.  We must realise that form now on we are no longer a colonial but free and independent people…But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work…We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our foundation – our own African personality….It is said, of course that we have no capital, no industrial skill, no communications, no internal markets, and that we cannot even agree among ourselves how best to utilize our resources for our own social needs.Yet all the stock exchanges in the world are pre-occupied with Africa’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, copper and iron ores. Our CAPITAL flows out in streams to irrigate the whole system of Western economy. Fifty-two per cent of the gold in Fort Knox at this moment, where the USA stores its bullion, is believed to have originated from OUR shores. Africa provides more than 60 per cent of the world’s gold. A great deal of the uranium for nuclear power, of copper for electronics, of titanium for supersonic projectiles, of iron and steel for heavy industries, of other minerals and raw materials for lighter industries – the basic economic might of the foreign Powers – comes from OUR continent. Experts have estimated that the Congo Basin alone can produce enough food crops to satisfy the requirements of nearly HALF the population of the whole world and here we sit talking about regionalism, talking about gradualism, talking about step by step. Are you afraid to tackle the bull by the horn?” 

 

A Democracy is only as Strong or as Weak as the Participants in the Process Choose to Make It” Hanna Tetteh – An African Election

Ghanaians this is how the outside world views you…Having no real difference in choice and just shouting for the sake of shouting party alliance…Jerry Rawlings brought Ghana out of Colonial Rule? LOL- laughable at best….