‘I am here to do a job’ – Khampepe willing to make tough recommendations in Usindiso inquiry

The retired justice says her responsibility is limited to making recommendations based on the evidence presented. How people respond to these recommendations is beyond her control.


Retired justice Sisi Khampepe will not be deterred by recommending that people be removed from hijacked buildings if the commission of inquiry into the Usindiso Building in Marshalltown thinks it’s necessary, even if it might cause unrest. At least 77 people died in the tragic incident when a fire broke out at the building last month. ALSO READ: ‘We need an independent probe into Marshalltown fire’ – Lesufi At the time of the commission’s establishment, Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi said the commission would investigate the prevalence of hijacked buildings in Johannesburg, what caused the deadly blaze in Usindiso Building and…

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Retired justice Sisi Khampepe will not be deterred by recommending that people be removed from hijacked buildings if the commission of inquiry into the Usindiso Building in Marshalltown thinks it’s necessary, even if it might cause unrest.

At least 77 people died in the tragic incident when a fire broke out at the building last month.

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

At the time of the commission’s establishment, Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi said the commission would investigate the prevalence of hijacked buildings in Johannesburg, what caused the deadly blaze in Usindiso Building and who must be held accountable for the tragedy.

Khampepe chairs commission of inquiry

Khampepe will chair the commission which seeks to solve the issues of people living in hijacked buildings in the Joburg CBD.

The former Constitutional Court justice was known for sending former president Jacob Zuma to prison after he failed to appear before the Zondo commission.

Her ruling caused unrest in the country, where businesses were looted and malls were vandalised, leaving over 300 people dead.

ALSO READ: Justice Khampepe pulls no punches in slamming Jacob Zuma

Because of the housing problem in Gauteng, there have been fears that if the commission recommends that everyone who lives in hijacked buildings be removed – and Lesufi implements those recommendations – this would spark tension in the province.

Asked if she would fear making a recommendation that would not favour those living in hijacked buildings because of the possibility of people rebelling against it, the retired justice said she was not worried about that.

‘I am here to do a job’

“I am here to do a job that is to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the commission find grounding in the evidence that would have been presented before the commission,” she said.

ALSO READ: ConCourt justices Khampepe and Jafta retire

“As to what will happen if a particular cause of result is determined by the commission, I am unable to say before the commission has received the evidence that will be presented by the evidence leaders.”

She was not in a position to indicate how much the commission would cost the taxpayers.

“The commission would not enter into anything regarding the budget, that is an avenue that is left to the premier of Gauteng,” she said.

“He indicated when he addressed the media on 13 September that the budget will be coming from his budget and he indicated how much that budget was.”

Regarding the timeline, Khampepe said the commission had already lost three weeks of its hearings and, because of that, it seemed inevitable that the commission would have to request an extension of time to complete its work.

ALSO READ: Stellenbosch University appoints retired judge Sisi Khampepe to probe racism allegations

“We were supposed to have completed our work in terms of part A on 30 November. It seems inconsiderable that we will not reach that deadline and an extension will have to be called for from the premier,” she said.

She said part B of the inquiry would inquire into circumstances around hijacked buildings within the Johannesburg CBD.

No speculation

Spokesperson for the inquiry, Thulani Makhubela, said they could not speculate on what people would do, how they would feel, or how they would react if the commission found that people should be removed from hijacked buildings.

Makhubela said they have to stick to the terms of reference of the commission and they would make recommendations based on evidence, testimony and documentary evidence that would be given to them.

“We will have to come out with recommendations that are grounded on the evidence. If the evidence that we find leads us to a particular conclusion, we cannot hide that conclusion with the fear that people might rebel against that conclusion,” he said.

– lungam@citizen.co.za

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