On Wednesday, 20 December 2023, the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry into the Usindiso Building fire made a ruling recusing Commissioner Adv. Thulani Makhubela from his role within the Commission. The decision came after the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) and the Inner City Federation lodged an application on 28 October 2023, requesting the recusal of Commissioner Makhubela. The basis for this application was a reasonable apprehension of bias against him due to his sustained public support for, and association with, Operation Dudula, a group founded on xenophobic rhetoric.
The application was fully supported by the residents of Usindiso with the Commission’s Evidence Leaders confirming that it is justified considering the undisputed allegations made.
In the ruling, the Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry, Justice Sisi Khampepe, found that:
“Commissioner Makhubela has for the past six years on social media expressed a firm view conveying enmity and antipathy towards foreign nationals in general and their undesirability in the City [of Johannesburg] and the country” in that “foreign nationals are responsible for societal ills besetting the country including rampant crime and unemployment.”
The Chairperson was satisfied that Commissioner Makhubela’s sustained public support for, and association with, Operation Dudula, compromised his ability to impartially adjudicate in the Commission's work. Consequently, the Chairperson concluded that there exists a genuine apprehension that Commissioner Makhubela would not approach issues involving foreign nationals and Operation Dudula with an impartial mind, considering his publicly expressed views.
SERI welcomes the Commission's ruling on the recusal of Commissioner Makhubela. The Commission was established by the Gauteng Premier, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, to inquire into the circumstances of the 31 August 2023 fire that caused the deaths of over 70 people and left hundreds more injured and destitute, and to determine, among others, who should be held responsible for the deaths and injuries of those affected by the fire.
Nomzamo Zondo, executive director of SERI, remarked,
“We welcome the ruling of the Commission as we believe Commissioner Makhubela’s recusal will ensure the Commission operates fairly, impartially, and in accordance with its Terms of Reference and the rule of law.”
Access the Commission’s ruling here.
- Nomzamo Zondo, SERI executive director: Nomzamo[at]seri-sa.org / 071 301 9676
- Edward Molopi, SERI senior communications and advocacy officer: Edward[at]seri-sa.org / 082 590 9638