Avatar photo

By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


‘We need an independent probe into Marshalltown fire’ – Lesufi

The fire at the Usindiso Building in Johannesburg left 77 people dead, with many injured and homeless


Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi has said the commission of inquiry into the Marshalltown fire was established to avoid political interference in the investigation of the disaster.

The provincial government held a media briefing on Wednesday to announce the terms of reference for the inquiry, which would look into the Usindiso Building fire in Johannesburg that left 77 people dead and many injured and homeless.

The inquiry will be chaired by retired Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe.

No interference

Lesufi said an independent review on what actually happened on that fateful morning in the Joburg CBD was the way to go to avoid political interference.

“There are many people who felt this was a waste time and resources, that we should have left it to other institutions to investigate and our argument is very clear – we didn’t want institutions that have political representation where you find a certain committee of a legislature or certain committee of Parliament to probe this matter.

“We needed a retired judge that has understanding of the law, independent from all of us so we can get the necessary guidance out of the recommendations from the commission,” Lesufi said.

ALSO READ: Hunt for slumlords: Four suspected building hijackers held for questioning

Phases

Lesufi said the inquiry into the fire disaster would be divided into two phases.

“Phase one will be looking into the circumstances surrounding what caused the death of at least 77 people, including women and children, and dozens more seriously injured and homeless.”

“[Issues such as] the prevalence of buildings or immovable properties in the Johannesburg Central Business District being abandoned by their legitimate landlords or owners and taken over by criminal syndicates or other groups and leased out to and populated with tenants, who do not have the means to afford other forms of housing,” he said.

Lesufi said phase two would centre on finding out who must shoulder the liability or responsibility for the Marshalltown disaster.

“To make recommendations insofar as the appropriate steps to be taken and by whom, and to address any relevant matter concerning this scope of the inquiry,” Lesufi added.

Timelines

Lesufi said the first part of the investigation would begin on 1 October and end on 30 November.

“The commission will then prepare and submit a report with the first part of the investigation to me before or by 30 December. The second part of the investigation will start on 1 January 2024 and end on 31 March. The commission will then prepare and submit a report with the second part of the investigation before or by 30 April,” he said.

ALSO READ: Families of Joburg fire victims urged to help identify bodies

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits