by Nelson Nkosi

Fire in Johannesburg: city negligence blamed

Incendie à Johannesburg : la négligence de la ville mise en cause

A commission of inquiry set up to elucidate the circumstances of the devastating fire which ravaged a building in downtown Johannesburg last August published the first part of its report this Sunday.

According to the conclusions of this commission, the responsibility of the city of Johannesburg is clearly called into question. Failure to comply with the obligation to maintain the municipal building was identified as the main factor leading to this tragedy which occurred on August 31, 2023. Abandoned since 2017, the building was then occupied by families, transformed into a place of life despite his precarious state.

The commission emphasizes that the authorities were aware of this situation since at least 2019, without taking measures to remedy it. The building, in an advanced state of disrepair and cluttered with rubbish, had never been renovated despite its use as a refuge for women victims of violence.

The report reveals gross negligence which transformed this building into a veritable time bomb, leading to the deaths of 76 people, including 12 children, who were burned to death in the fire.

As for the origin of the fire, it is just as sinister, attributed to a suspect who confessed, a few months earlier, to having strangled a man before setting fire to his corpse to cover up his crime.

The commission is now calling for the complete demolition of what remains of the building and plans to release the rest of its report in a week.