President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the scene where more than 70 people were killed in a fire that razed a dilapidated building in the inner city of Johannesburg on Thursday.
Ramaphosa, who was due to address the nation on the outcomes of the 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa) Summit and the investigation into the Lady R vessel alleged to have been carrying weapons for Russia, postponed his national address to attend the scene.
Speaking to the media at the scene, Ramaphosa offered his condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the early morning fire.
He said this tragedy was a lesson and wake-up call for government and other role-players to restore the rights of people and prioritise the housing issue in South Africa, especially in the Johannesburg inner city.
Ramaphosa said that the red tape often made it difficult for government "to do the right things at the right time".
"There are processes that government needs to embark upon at the city, provincial, and national levels that we find are restrictive impediments that stand in the way, like in this situation.
"When a building is condemned, we go through too many regulatory processes that can lead to situations like this," he said.
Ramaphosa said that Parliament needed to ensure that government did not need to go through too many rules that held it back from doing right by its people. He added that it was also imperative to root out the criminal activity occurring in these buildings as people preyed on the poor and illegally leased out space in the building.
"This is a wake-up call for us now to begin to address the situation of housing in the inner city. We need to find effective ways to deal with the issue of housing.
"I am told this building is owned by the city, and they sought to get order in this building but were blocked from doing so. The lesson for us is that we got to address this problem of housing in the inner city," he said.
Speaking on the accusations by some officials that NGOs were also at fault for litigating the city for evicting people from abandoned buildings, Ramaphosa said he was not there to "shift the blame on anyone".
"NGOs play a very important role in the life of our country. We are not standing here to shift blame on anyone. We are all to blame for this calamity that happened here.
Nonetheless, this is a lesson and a wake-up call because we do not want to see a repeat of what happened here. We need to look at the regulations and laws, as we always go through a number of processes that delay and detour, that make it difficult for us to do the right things at the right time.
"We are a caring government; we may fall short, but the determination to care for our people is a top priority," Ramaphosa said.