A glimpse into the living conditions inside a hijacked building in the Johannesburg central business district was shown on Thursday evening during a CNN broadcast with Eleni Giokos.
During a tour with the then Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, and police, footage from inside the building suggested it was an informal settlement with a large number of illegal electricity connections and makeshift partitioning.
"It was a terrifying experience, with people living in inhumane and dangerous conditions," Giokos said of her 2017 tour of the hijacked building.
The CNN report was in light of Thursday’s tragedy, where 74 people died after a multiple-storey hijacked building on Albert Street in the Johannesburg CBD caught alight.
In 2017, I covered a raid of a hijacked building in Johannesburg with former mayor Herman Mashaba. It was a terrifying experience, with people living in inhumane and dangerous conditions.— Eleni Giokos Ελένη Γιώκου (@EleniGiokos) August 31, 2023
Here's a short clip. pic.twitter.com/9AZbMxvXvZ
Seven of the dead were children.
Now leader of ActionSA, Herman Mashaba, told CNN News on Friday morning that during his term as mayor of Joburg, he notified President Cyril Ramaphosa of 60 cases of hijacked buildings.
Mashaba claimed the fire was an act of culpable homicide because it happened while the government knew about it for "many years".
When CNN asked Mashaba how many hijacked buildings he was aware of, viewers were left stunned.
"In the three years as the mayor of the City of Johannesburg, I uncovered just over 600 buildings. So it is a widespread problem. There are around a hundred buildings that can explode at any time.
"It is for that reason that I think someone must be held accountable," Mashaba told CNN.
Meanwhile, Minister of Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi said the government has asked the private sector to assist in housing those displaced by the fire, which is around 200 families, according to local authorities.
"The MEC for Human Settlements has been on site. We have three buildings that we have identified that will house the families, which is for 72 hours. Within that 72 hours, we will have to assess them ... if they qualify to be provided for in terms of alternative accommodation.
"We have rallied and lobbied the private sector, which has come on board to assist us in terms of the work that we are doing," said Kubayi.
On Friday, IOL reported that identification of the deceased began at a mortuary in Soweto.
The Gauteng provincial government also set up a hotline to assist those searching for loved ones.
It is understood the 74 deceased bodies were processed at the Gauteng Forensic Pathology Service (FPS) mortuary in Diepkloof.
Forty bodies were male, 24 were female, and 10 were burnt beyond recognition.
Multiple body parts were also reportedly discovered.