Political parties call for more focus on proper housing after deadly fire in Joburg CBD

A fire in a four-storey apartment building in the Joburg CBD claimed over 70 lives on August 31. Political parties are calling for a crackdown on hijacked buildings and the provision of proper housing. Picture: Timothy Bernard / African News Agency (ANA)

A fire in a four-storey apartment building in the Joburg CBD claimed over 70 lives on August 31. Political parties are calling for a crackdown on hijacked buildings and the provision of proper housing. Picture: Timothy Bernard / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 31, 2023


Political party leaders and members have rushed to the scene in he Johannesburg CBD to offer their assistance to those affected by the tragic fire that has so far claimed over 70 lives and left many others injured.

A massive fire broke out in a five-storey building at the corner of Alberts Street and Delvers Street in Marshalltown in Johannesburg in the early hours of Thursday morning.

According to reports, the building belonged to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that was abandoned and then hijacked by inner-city residents living there illegally.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has also offered his provincial government’s services to assist following the devastating incident.

Winde said he was “stunned and devastated” by the tragedy, not only for Johannesburg, but for the whole of South Africa.

Winde has since offered any assistance the City of Johannesburg, its emergency services and the Gauteng Provincial Government may need.

“Our Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) stands ready and willing to help wherever they can. It does not matter where disasters occur, we are always willing to offer help,” Winde said.

“While we are still coming to grips with the scale of this tragedy, I want to recognise and thank all of the fire and rescue services’ staff who have been on the scene since early this morning. Our first-line responders are such an important asset to our society.

“I have also reached out to my counterpart Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi to express my condolences and to extend our offer of support,” he said.

Build One South Africa (Bosa) leader Mmusi Maimane, who was at the scene, said this incident has been one of the biggest tragedies the City of Johannesburg faced in recent times.

Maimane called on those responsible for the building to be held accountable.

“We need to know what is the NGO and we must hold them accountable,” he said.

He said that this was not the time to play politics, but rather it was time to reclaim the cities and make sure cities worked for its people.

“The collapse of law enforcement will manifest in tragedies like this. Rather than the Metro Police focusing on traffic control, they should be brought in to inspect these buildings,” Maimane said.

“(SA Police Service) SAPS should be more on the ground to ensure that people who break the law, face action. Those responsible for these buildings must be held accountable,” he said.

“Let us capacitate the law enforcement agencies. Why can’t we partner with private security to assist in inspecting buildings?” Maimane asked.

He also said that the instability in the City of Johannesburg also had a major role to play in such tragedies.

“We have to stop this rotation of mayors. We need to keep a city manager in place and keep the budget allocation in place,” he said.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, John Steenhuisen said earlier that the party would continue to push for adequate housing and safer living conditions for those living in the inner city of Johannesburg.

The African National Congress (ANC) urged relevant authorities to investigate the cause of this tragedy thoroughly to ensure that it did not recur.

The party further urged the City of Johannesburg to pay focused attention to the safety of inner-city buildings, including illegal occupation, to prevent similar humanitarian tragedies in future.

“We urge our structures in Johannesburg, working together with government agencies and NGOs, to do whatever it takes to lend a hand to those in distress,” the ANC said.

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba is also expected to arrive at the scene shortly.

The Al Jama-ah Party also sent its condolences to the families of the victims, saying it prayed for a speedy recovery for those injured in the blaze.

This tragic incident, they said, highlighted the shortage of houses and institutions for homeless people.

The IFP in Gauteng said this latest incident pointed to the City of Johannesburg’s failure to properly accommodate the urban poor. Moreover, it said, it spoke to the City’s inability to curb the hijacking of buildings within the inner city.

“The dire situation where many people remain desperate and need habitable human settlements, often leads to them resorting to living within hijacked buildings in the inner city. With proper care, the situation could be wholly averted. The City needs to do the right thing and provide decent and affordable housing within the City,” the IFP said.

Patricia de Lille’s GOOD Party commended the work of the emergency service teams who have worked tirelessly through the night.

GOOD has since sent the Gauteng caucus to the scene to assess the needs of the survivors.

“A tragedy of this magnitude calls on the country to unite and support our brothers and sisters regardless of nationality, race or social standing. We must transcend political party divisions, to support the victims,” De Lille said.

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