Joburg working hard to reclaim hijacked buildings: Mayor

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Yet another illegally occupied building was gutted by fire in the Johannesburg CBD. Two people lost their lives after the residential building on the corner of Commissioner and Nugget Streets went up in flames.

Police have arrested a woman who allegedly started the fire in the building with shack-like structures on the inside. Several people have been injured and more than 150 people have been displaced. City of Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda says the municipality is in the process of reclaiming hijacked and non-compliant buildings in the inner city.

The two-storey building is one of several buildings that have caught fire in the inner city of Johannesburg in recent years. These include the Bank of Lisbon in 2018 and more recently, the Usindiso building, which claimed 77 lives in August last year.

According to eyewitnesses, a woman allegedly doused paraffin on her boyfriend’s shack after an argument before setting it alight. A case of arson has been opened by the police and the woman has been taken into custody.

“Around 4:30 there was a lady came fighting with her man and the man refused to open the door and told her that they would talk the next morning. She came back with paraffin and doused the shack and set it alight. I tried to stop the fire that’s how I got hurt,” a witness said.

Firefighters spent the majority of Sunday morning putting out the flames which engulfed the two-storey building. They managed to extinguish the blaze before midday.

“The windows are shattered and the first floor is full and the structure itself it’s questionable at this moment. We are going to get a structural engineer just to check the integrity of the structure but we have spoken to the community and their leaders to say that they cannot go back to reside in the building,” says Nana Radebe-Kgiba, EMS spokesperson.

Gwamanda says his office is working hard to reclaim hi-jacked buildings and affected residents will be provided with temporary emergency accommodation.

“The administrative team have assured me of the fact that we have been taking the process whereby we drew our safety city strategy will identify non-compliance buildings and those non-compliant buildings will then be able to make it to termination. As to the further action that we are going to take but we are adamant that many of these buildings need to be expropriated by the city because not only are using our services but they are not paying,”

The woman suspected of starting the fire is expected to appear in court soon.

Video: Two people die in Joburg CBD building fire – Survivor appeals for assistance