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Delayed Inspections Under Scrutiny after Devastating Johannesburg CBD Fire

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

A central concern has emerged from the ashes of the recent catastrophic fire in downtown Johannesburg: when was the building last inspected? City records reveal that no such inspection has been done for the past four years, sparking widespread query about the efficiency and efficacy of the city's safety enforcement.



The devastating fire claimed the lives of 74 individuals. Among the deceased was a group of vulnerable women and children formerly housed in the building, located in Marshalltown, a part of Johannesburg's Central Business District. The building, hijacked in 2019, was last inspected in the same year, according to the acting chief of emergency medical services in Johannesburg, Rapulane Monageng.


Further investigations revealed that this is not an isolated occurrence. The city has been grappling with the phenomenon of 'building hijacking' since the issue rose to prominence in 2008. In essence, building hijackings involve properties being seized from their rightful owners and landlords. Hijackers then populate these buildings with tenants, to illegally collect rent without providing basic amenities such as water, sanitation, and electricity.



The attempted eviction of illegal tenants has faced legal resistance. Despite promises over the past 15 years from seven mayors including Amos Masondo, Parks Tau, and Herman Mashaba, the rampant issue persists, largely unabated.


In the wake of the tragedy, the city is rallying to support affected families and individuals. The city's disaster management team, accompanied by 16 social workers, have been deployed to offer necessary social and psychological support.


As the city mourns the lives so tragically lost, the fire serves as a harsh reminder of an ongoing crisis. The spotlight is now on the city of Johannesburg as an urgent review of safety inspections, aggressive enforcement, and the unwavering persistence of building hijacking is necessitated.


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