On 26 October 2023, the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry into the fire at the Usindiso Shelter in Marshalltown commenced. The fire on 31 August 2023 claimed the lives of over 70 people and left hundreds more injured and destitute.
The Commission of Inquiry was established by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi to inquire into the circumstances of the fire that caused these deaths and injuries and the prevalence of ‘hijacked buildings’ in the inner city of Johannesburg. The Commission has also been tasked with making findings about who should be held responsible and to draw lessons from the incident, considering the ongoing investigations carried out by the police and other bodies. The Commission will make recommendations about appropriate steps that must be taken and by whom and it has been given six months to complete its work.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) welcomes the commencement of the Commission of Inquiry. We have placed on record our intention to participate and will also act as legal representatives for the Inner City Federation (ICF) in their participation at the Commission. The former residents of the Usindiso shelter and victims of the fire will be represented by Norton Rose Attorneys.
SERI looks forward to making its submission to the Commission of Inquiry drawing from our work with residents of the inner city and their experiences of building neglect. The tragic events at Usindiso transpired in the context of a longer-term housing crisis acutely affecting unemployed and low-income residents in the inner city of Johannesburg. SERI, therefore, welcomes constructive engagement on ways to address this crisis while protecting the housing rights and the dignity of some of the most vulnerable in society.
SERI executive director Nomzamo Zondo said, “We are hopeful that the Commission will form a foundation for the victim’s pursuit of justice and a people-centred approach towards the development of the Johannesburg inner city. We are nonetheless concerned about the absence of the victims of the fire at the Commission and how that will impact the proceedings.”
- Nkosinathi Sithole, Senior Attorney:
- Nomzamo Zondo, SERI executive director:
- Download the statement here.