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Lesufi announces terms of reference of Joburg building fire inquest

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi . Photo: Screenshot from Twitter:@GautengProvince

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi . Photo: Screenshot from Twitter:@GautengProvince

Published Sep 13, 2023


Two weeks ago, Lesufi announced that he would be establishing a commission of inquiry into the blaze, saying he had engaged with President Cyril Ramaphosa on the matter.

Lesufi, who addressed the media from the provincial offices in Midrand on Wednesday, said the reason he had established a commission of inquiry into the blaze was to ensure that there is no confusion as a fully fledged inquiry will allow the province and the commission chairperson to subpoena witnesses.

He said in spite of misgivings that this commission would be a waste of time, it was needed to get to the bottom of the incident to avoid similar incidents from happening again.

"There are many people who felt this was a waste of money and resources, that we should have left it to other institutions to investigate and our argument is very clear - we didn't want institutions that have political representation where you find a certain committee of a legislature or Parliament to probe this matter,“ he said.

The inquiry, which will be led by retired constitutional justice, Sisi Khampepe, assisted by Advocate Thulani Makhubela and Vuyelwa Mathilda Mabena, has been given six months to submit a report on all the possible causes of the fire.

The inquiry will be broken into two phases with the first phase set to look into the cause of the fire, while the second phase will look into the prevalence of hijacked buildings in the province

He said that from October 1, the commission has two months to establish the cause of the Marshalltown fire and who is to blame, while from January 2024, the commission has been given four months to probe the prevalence of hijacked buildings in Gauteng.

This comes as city officials ramp up and crack down on hijacked buildings following the arrest of 23 people, including a councillor, for the scourge of building hijacks.

The Usindiso Building was also said to have been taken over by syndicates who deal in dilapidated and semi-dilapidated buildings while collecting rent fees from desperate residents.

According to the premier, the inquiry will not interfere with any ongoing investigations either by police, Parliament or the City of Johannesburg.

“SAPS will not stop doing its own work. Those tasks must continue. We also hear that the Office of the Public Protector also wants to intervene. If there are areas that it feels they are within their competency and they want to intervene, we will also allow them to do so. The commission will be allowed to do its work without any political interference,” he said