Inquiry into Marshalltown fire to start this month
Chairperson judge Sisi Khampepe sees possibility of an extension being requested as inquiry is starting three weeks later than scheduled
The commission of inquiry into the Usindiso building which burnt down, resulting in 77 deaths, will start the first part of its work dealing with the cause of the fire and who should be held accountable on October 26.
The inquiry is starting almost three weeks later than scheduled due to delays the commission faced in procuring services such as a venue.
The delays have made it “inevitable” the commission will have to request an extension to complete the first phase of its work.
This was announced by chairperson of the commission retired justice Sisi Khampepe during a media briefing in Parktown on Tuesday.
“We've had problems with the procurement of services for the commission. The issue of the venue has taken time to sort out,” Khampepe said.
“As you know, the procurement of services within government is an issue that takes some time. We as the commission have not been an exception to that phenomenon. It has taken this long to start the work of the commission because of the problems of the procurement of service.
“The commission has lost almost three weeks of its hearing life. Because of that, it seems inevitable we will have to request an extension of time within which to complete our work in terms of part A.”
The commission is supposed to finish the first part of its work on November 30.
This section of the work deals with the circumstances that led to the fire and who should be held accountable.
Part B of the inquiry will deal with the prevalence of hijacked buildings in the Johannesburg inner city.
The loss of life from the fire on August 31 shocked the country and prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to visit the scene.
Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi announced there would be a commission of inquiry into the circumstances that led to the fire which would also make recommendations to the government.
Khampepe said the rules providing guidelines on witnesses, order of evidence, venue, call for documents and hearings have all been made public.
Hearings will be held in public unless the chairperson deems that evidence should be led in camera.
“Whereas the proceedings of the commission are intended to contribute on the path to closure for the victims, the commission appreciates that the proceedings may add to secondary trauma to the victims. As a result, psychological services will be made available to the victims and the commission at all material times,” Khampepe said.
She invited members of the public who have information or evidence concerning the circumstances surrounding the fire to provide it to the commission.
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