Usindiso Inquiry: Group asks commission to support victims’ attendance

Usindiso Inquiry: Group asks commission to support victims’ attendance

A group representing the victims of the deadly Marshalltown fire has petitioned the Commission of Inquiry investigating the blaze to provide logistical support to victims.

Search for bodies in fire-gutted Marshalltown building continues
Masechaba Selufaro

The Marshalltown Fire Justice Campaign wants survivors and the families of the more than 70 deceased victims to attend and participate in proceedings at the Usindiso Commission of Inquiry, into the cause and liability of the August 2023 fire, in Newtown.

The campaign’s Mametlwe Sebei addressed commission chair Sisi Khampepe on Thursday morning.

“What we are raising is that we want support so that they can participate because this inquiry is about them, and we think that they need to be assisted with transport, food, and accommodation so that they fully participate in this commission as it has happened in other commissions…

“There are many families that can’t come to Joburg; there are many people that are located in all these settlements; there are issues of transport and food and other logistics,” Sebei said.

After noting their concerns, Khampepe advised to take the matter up with the commission’s secretariat.

Evidence leader Advocate Ishmael Semenya confirmed the concerns had been brought to the attention of the secretariat.

“We’re attempting to have a much deeper engagement with the support group. We do know that Norten Rose [Fullbright] is on record representing the same people. There may be a creative way in which we can engage with the group, the attorneys, and the secretariat to manage these issues.”

Sebei said, following a brief meeting on the sidelines of proceedings, the commission’s secretariat has agreed, in principle, to accede to their demands.

READ: Marshalltown fire survivors demand services from Joburg metro

At the same time, the office of Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi has dismissed claims the commission of inquiry is a sham.

The independent inquiry has experienced several setbacks including the recusal of one of the commissioners, Thulani Makhubela, over allegations of xenophobia.

Speaking outside the commission venue, Sebei said the process is a ploy to distract from the systemic failure plaguing all spheres of government.

“These sorts of commissions are about a cover-up for the political establishment of this country who are responsible for this kind of gross, criminal neglect of the housing crisis but also of the conditions in which the poor are living in the inner city. It’s about the policies that they have implemented; the neoliberal austerity programmes that have curtailed spending on public housing; which are responsible for a massive housing crisis here in Johannesburg and across the country.”

But Lesufi’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla says the point of the commission is precisely to identify and address the said failures.

“We find it bizarre that people are waking up and making such accusations when there was an acknowledgment from national, provincial and local level that this tragedy should not have happened, and to avert it happening in the future a commission is necessary.”

Pamla said the commission should be left to do its work.


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