Suspect appears in court over Marshalltown fire following confession

Spokesperson for the NPA, Phindi Mjonondwane. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ Independent Newspapers

Spokesperson for the NPA, Phindi Mjonondwane. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 25, 2024


The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has confirmed the identity of the 29-year-old man who on Monday confessed to setting the Usindiso Building fire as Lawrence Mdlalose.

This week, Mdlalose confessed that he set the building on fire to conceal the murder of another person, during his in-camera testimony at the commission of inquiry into the fire.

This resulted in the police arresting him on 76 counts of murder, 86 of attempted murder and a charge of arson following the blaze that claimed the lives of at least 76 people who lived in the hijacked Usindiso Building in Marshalltown, Joburg.

On Monday, Mdlalose admitted that he was responsible for the deadly fire in August last year.

Spokesperson for the NPA, Phindi Mjonondwane, confirmed the confession was made before a magistrate on Wednesday, saying the matter before the court was to ensure that the NPA builds its own case parallel to the confession the suspect made this week.

“As the prosecution, we can’t rely on the evidence that was presented at the commission, so the state is currently busy with its own investigations. But with what we have at our disposal, we were able to place the matter before the court.

“We can confirm that a confession has been (made) in front of a magistrate. It therefore meets the requirements of section 217 of the Criminal Procedures Act.”

Outside court, Mdlalose’s lawyer, Dumisani Mabunda, spoke briefly on the matter, saying he was still busy with the confession, which was only received on Thursday morning.

“I have a copy of the confession. It was only given to me this morning, so I need to go through it and consult with my client. My instructions are that he did that voluntarily,” Mabunda said.

The matter, which will be running concurrently with the ongoing inquiry which was paused for the better part of this week, was postponed to next Thursday (February 6) for police profiling and address verification.

The commission, which is probing the cause of the fire as well as the phenomenon of hijacked buildings, was established by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, who appointed retired Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe as its chairperson.

Earlier this week, evidence leader Ishmael Semenya brought in the witness, whose identity at the time was hidden on the basis that his life would be in danger if his identity was published.

However, during the court case, his identity was revealed.

The Star