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‘Councillor’ pushed for shacks inside uSindiso building, inquiry hears

Inside one of the rooms in the fire-damaged Usindiso building in Marshalltown. File photo.
Inside one of the rooms in the fire-damaged Usindiso building in Marshalltown. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

A witness has told the commission of inquiry into the fire at the Usindiso building that an unnamed Johannesburg councillor could have been a landlord of shacks inside the building.

Daniel Mboza, who took to the stand on Tuesday, claimed the councillor granted permission for 180 shacks to be erected on the ground floor.

“The councillor said the building was dangerous and could collapse at any point during a stampede. But he allowed the shacks to be erected.

“When I posed questions he told me I had a room and I should be considerate and allow others to also have accommodation. That point defeated me and I didn’t ask more questions,” Mboza said.

He said there were about 200 shacks erected in the building, with 180 on the ground floor and 20 on other floors. It took about three days to erect the 180 shacks

“He was clearly a landlord. He allowed the erection of more shacks.”

Mboza said he did not pay rent as he was one of the people who illegally occupied the building in the Johannesburg CBD around 2019.

“People rented out their rooms [becoming landlords] when they saw shacks on the ground floor were being rented out. Foreign nationals were mostly the ones paying rent.”

In 2021 there was a raid by police, Eskom, City Power and an official from the Johannesburg Property Company, he said. “They told us the services were not paid and there were too many foreign nationals. They requested we all produce identification.

“It was very early in the morning. When I enquired why I should show them my ID, they said I was arrogant and took me into their van. They took me to John Vorster [Johannesburg Central] police station and detained me for four hours.

“What surprised me was that when I went back into the building, all the foreigners who I was arrested with were given R1,000 police station bail.”

Mboza said he works as a cobbler and had suffered great financial loss as a result of the fire last August which killed 77 people.  

“I had a machine for fixing shoes. I kept it at Usindiso because it used electricity and that is  where I used it. Some customers understand there was nothing I could do as their shoes burnt.

“I had to go to the bank to withdraw R43,000. I had to refund customers who didn’t understand. I didn’t think the damage would amount to such a big sum. At that point I lost hope. I went back to a shack I used to live in before I went to live in the building.”

TimesLIVE


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