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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Justice for Joburg CBD fire victims? Inquiry hit with Home Affairs’ bid to deport witnesses

The inquiry into the Joburg CBD fire has hit yet another delay as Home Affairs' legal bid to deport several survivors has come to light.

The commission of inquiry into the devastating Marshalltown fire, which claimed the lives of 77 people and made international headlines earlier this year, has apparently been unaware of the Department of Home Affairs’ intention to deport some prospective witnesses. 

The two-phase “politically-free” commission of inquiry was appointed on 13 September by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi at request of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Commission of inquiry into Joburg CBD fire

Chaired by retired justice Sisi Khampepe, the independent body has been tasked with:

  • Investigating the prevalence of hijacked buildings in the Johannesburg CBD;
  • Establishing the cause of the deadly blaze which tore through the five-storey Usindiso Building on 31 August; and
  • Identifying those who must be held accountable for the tragedy

ALSO READ: Panicking Joburg CBD fire victims were ‘squashed against closed gate’

According to an EWN report, 32 undocumented migrants who survived the fiery ordeal are currently detained at the Lindela Repatriation Centre.

This is as they are awaiting the outcome of a legal battle opposing their deportation.

The Norton Rose Fulbright law firm is actively challenging the Home Affairs’ high court application to repatriate the fire victims before the inquiry is able to conclude its proceedings.

Significance of potential evidence

Despite the fact that the commission has not compiled a definitive list of witnesses, its spokesperson, Advocate Thulani Makhubela, stressed that there is a definitive need to assess the significance of potential evidence from individuals facing deportation.

“If Home Affairs has decided to deport someone, it would then be upon us to see how important evidence from that person is. We will basically cross that bridge when we get there,” he told EWN.

ALSO READ: Usindiso building blaze inquiry: Witness’ testimony highlights safety violations

Inquiry ‘postponed indefinitely’

The inquiry, which has been marred by delays, has been postponed indefinitely due to safety compliance issues flagged at the Usindiso Building.

According to Makhubela, the commission, however, hopes to resume its work at the beginning of December, which would be this week Friday…

NOW READ: Joburg fire: Government must be charged with culpable homicide for death of 77 – Mashaba

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