Saftu calls for the implementation of Khampepe report on Usindiso building

Zwelinzima Vavi calls for the implementation of Khampepe report. Picture: Itumeleng English Independent Newspapers

Zwelinzima Vavi calls for the implementation of Khampepe report. Picture: Itumeleng English Independent Newspapers

Published May 7, 2024


The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has urged the government to build houses for downtrodden people urgently to avoid another Usindiso tragedy.

The union’s secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said that would resolve the question of illegal occupation of abandoned buildings, which were often in inhabitable conditions with no access to water, electricity or refuse collection.

Vavi said every tenant living in dilapidated buildings would opt out and leave them simply because conditions in those buildings are not fit for humans.

The federation was happy that the report denounced claims that the building was occupied by mostly foreigners, he said, adding that those who uttered such were looking for a scapegoat to hide government failures.

“That poor South African workers opt to live in these inhabitable buildings, proves that the real problem is the housing crisis, not the so-called illegal immigrants occupying buildings illegally.

“This is not to dismiss that criminal syndicates, some of whom are immigrants, do occupy buildings illegally, sometimes pushing legal owners out of such properties.

“It has been and it is still our contention that the government is the main culprit to be blamed for the tragedy at Usindiso Building because of negligence, failure to implement the (Joburg)City’s by-laws, and the ultimate crisis of housing that has gripped the city and the country at large.

“For instance, the Marshalltown Fire Justice Campaign reported that the housing backlog in Johannesburg stands at 500 000 housing units.

“Given that only 2500 housing units were built in 2022, at this pace, it will take 200 years to clear this backlog,” said Vavi.

Saftu welcomed the Khampepe report, he said, adding that it was a step towards pursuing justice for the victims who died and those who lost their belongings in the fire.

The federation supports the recommendations and called for their full implementation.

The Khampepe report had found that Johannesburg Property Company chief executive Helen Botes; Joburg MMC for Human Settlements Anthea Leitch and Joburg Public Safety MMC Dr Mgcini Tshwaku had failed to conduct an oversight and recommended that appropriate action be taken against them.

Commission inquiry chairperson Justice Sisi Khampepe said the process of demolishing the doomed Usindiso Building must now be seen to its final implementation.

“Since all contraventions of the national acts and by-laws have been established, the City must engage in an independent process to determine who must bear individual responsibility or liability for each of of the contraventions found in our report, and to report any attendant criminal conduct to the relevant authorities for further investigation,” said Khampepe.

“The board of directors of the JPC (Johannesburg Property Company) must consider taking appropriate action against Ms Botes, the chief executive of the Johannesburg Property Company for the total disregard of managing the Usindiso Building despite knowledge of the disastrous state of affairs since at least 2019.”

The commission said two witness who testified in camera at the inquiry, confessing to crimes in the building, must be probed further for possible prosecution for multiple murders and attempted murders, arson, the obstruction of justice and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm to the victims where appropriate cases can be made.

The Star