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Johannesburg fire: causes and underlying problems

Sameera Casmod | sameerac@radioislam.co.za
4 September 2023 | 14:30 SAST
1-min read

Picture: Timothy Bernard / African news Agency (ANA)

The death toll of the Johannesburg fire in Marshalltown has reached 76 as two more patients passed away in hospital. The fire has prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to say that it is a wake-up call for the government to prioritise providing habitable housing for vulnerable citizens.

Dr Natalia Flores Quiroz, a senior researcher in fire engineering at the University of Stellenbosch and political analyst Dr Dale McKinley, spoke to Radio Islam International this morning. During the interview, the discussion covered the problems that have been held responsible for the incident- including the failure of governance, the apartheid regime and illegal immigrants- as well as the urgent need for solutions.

The fire, which occurred in a building resembling an informal settlement due to overcrowding and a lack of basic necessities such as electricity and water, has raised questions about the safety of residents. Dr Flores Quiroz stated that similar incidents in the past  suggest that this is a recurring problem.

Dr Dale McKinley pointed out that the incident symbolises a broader failure of governance. He highlighted that successive governments, including the ANC’s nearly 20-year tenure in Johannesburg, had not effectively transformed abandoned buildings into proper housing. He also cited corruption, mismanagement, and the rise of “mafia landlords” as contributing factors to the crisis.

The interview further discussed the tendency of politicians to resort to blaming apartheid when faced with such crises. Dale argued that while apartheid’s legacy was undeniable, politicians had been in power for nearly three decades and should be held accountable for their actions, including the neglect of emergency services.

The conversation also touched on short-term and long-term solutions. Natalia stressed the importance of residents being prepared for fires in the absence of adequate firefighting resources. However, she acknowledged the difficulty in preventing fires in buildings that were not code compliant.

The upcoming elections are expected to reflect the public’s growing dissatisfaction with excuses and a desire for meaningful change.

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaiman Ravat here.

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