‘Month later and no answers on Jhb fire’


It is now exactly one month since the fire in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, destroyed the lives of hundreds of people.

RNews earlier reported that the tragedy claimed the lives of 77 people and injured another 52 when a fire broke out in the early hours of August 31 in a building in downtown Johannesburg.

Danisile Sathekge, spokesperson for Rise Mzansi, says this fire has changed the lives of couples, orphans, families and friends forever and that the government will have to do more to support these victims in their need.

“We remain concerned at all levels about the effectiveness of the government’s response to this avoidable tragedy.”

She says the party takes note of the steps taken by the Gauteng provincial government to appoint a commission of inquiry into the cause of the fire.

“However, we believe that more information and transparency regarding the emergency response by the City of Johannesburg, as well as the provincial and national departments of social development, human settlements, international relations and cooperation as well as internal affairs, is needed.”

According to Sathekge, no significant updates – related to the relief efforts, injuries, deaths or support for the recovery of belongings such as identity documents destroyed in the fire – have been provided by the authorities in more than two weeks.

“Rise Mzansi appeals to the City of Johannesburg and the relevant provincial and national departments to inform the country about this important tragedy.”

According to Rise Mzansi, the government needs to keep the public informed of the following issues:

  1. Information on the updated numbers of fire-related hospitalizations and deaths and the exact number of people left homeless as a result of the fire.
  2. Information about the government support provided in terms of food, shelter, medical support and trauma counseling in the weeks since the fire.
  3. Information on the status of the processes of identification by the families of people who died, DNA services for the 62 persons who were not identifiable and funeral support.
  4. Information on the short- to medium-term disaster management and human settlement plan for victims of the fire outside the temporary shelters set up in the first 72 hours after the fire.
  5. Information about a plan for the care of any children who were left without parents or who experienced school interruptions due to the fire.

“We also note that the police have arrested victims of the fire.

“These arrests are alarming, traumatic and show the failure of the system to support those whose legal documents have been burnt to ashes.

“The South African government and the respective embassies and consulates must support the urgent issuance of temporary documentation to enable those affected to continue to rebuild their lives without fear of further victimization,” says Sathekge.

Rise Mzansi appeals “to all stakeholders to continue to engage us to jointly deal with the crises – which are engulfing our cities”.

“As we prepare for our national convention, we think it is absolutely essential to ensure that municipal dysfunction should appear as a strong component in our deliberations.

“If we do not address the root of these problems, we can expect more similar tragic incidents to occur without those responsible being held accountable.”