Johannesburg – Former City of Joburg mayor and ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said had President Cyril Ramaphosa been caring, he would have been on the scene where seven children, including an 18-month-old, were among the 73 people tragically killed by a fire that broke out in a hijacked building in Johannesburg.
The fire broke out in the early hours of this morning (Thursday) at the five-storey building in Marshalltown. It has been established that the building belonged to the City of Joburg.
City of Joburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda confirmed that the building was leased to an NGO for homeless people. It was later abandoned and hijacked.
Mashaba said he was saddened by the tragic deaths of 73 people. He said this should be declared a case of culpable homicide.
"This was avoidable; it was an accident bound to happen, and in my world, this is culpable homicide or murder. When I took over as mayor on December 1, 2016, I raised the issue of hijacked buildings in the city.
“At that time, the municipality was facing over 300 000 backlogs. I said we could not live like this. I said we were going to form a special unit where we were going to go after the owners.
“In the event we don’t find them, we will expropriate the (buildings), take them over as the City, and give them to the private sector to build affordable housing for our people. Unfortunately, I had to leave when the DA and the ANC thought my focus on poor communities was not the right thing to do," said Mashaba.
According to reports, people died because they were trapped as there was only one exit in the building.
Mashaba said the majority of buildings in the inner city were death traps due to illegal electricity connections and no water. He said what was sad was that people were paying up to R1 500 just for beds to syndicates, and law enforcement agencies were not doing much about it.
"In any civilised nation, when many lives are lost, the president of the country should be there right now, putting every measure in place. As you know, the chances of our president showing up are very slim," Mashaba said.
City of Joburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the update by early yesterday (Thursday) afternoon showed 73 fatalities and 52 injured.
Mulaudzi said officials arrived on the scene around 1.30am. He described the building as a concrete structure, and inside there was a shack dwelling, saying that it was difficult to move out and that most people who perished were from the upper floors.