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“Fatal Joburg CBD fire should serve as wake-up call,” says rights group

todaySeptember 1, 2023 133

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The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) says the City of Joburg should take the tragedy that gutted a building in the Joburg CBD as a wake-up call to better take care of its buildings.
This after a building, which had been turned into an informal settlement at Corner Alberts and Delvers streets, caught fire in the early hours of yesterday morning claiming the lives of 74 people, including  children.
There were over 80 shacks inside the building. Firefighters say 43 people were treated on scene and later transported to various health care facilities for further medical care.
The incident has re-ignited the housing crisis debate in the country and the laws around evictions, which most of the time makes it difficult for authorities to deal with illegal building occupiers.
Joburg Mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda, says while the city owns the building at the centre of this storm, it had been leased to an NGO at the time of tragedy and organisations like SERI make it difficult for the city to kick people out of buildings.
However, SERI’s Executive Director, Nomzamo Zondo, says while they know that the building had been leased to an NGO that use to shelter women and children, it is incorrect to suggest that their organisation was responsible for it and the city could not intervene.
Zondo says an owner of the building, the city, must have ensured that the individuals they lease the property to take care of it.
The non-profit human rights organisation says the country’s Constitution is clear that no one can be evicted from their home without the necessary court processes being followed and the state has to intervene when people who are removed from a building would be rendered homeless.

 

Gauteng Human Settlements MEC, Lebogang Maile, who visited the scene of the tragedy along with other officials and NGOs, says they are aware that there are cartels that prey on poor people, by making them pay for services like water and electricity.
This as reports have emerged that the occupants of the building were allegedly paying rent.
Maile says they are cracking hard on the said cartel operators.

Written by: Nokwazi Qumbisa

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