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[PRESS STATEMENT] SERI and ICF welcome the report of the Khampepe Commission of Inquiry into Usindiso Building fire (7 May 2024).

Press statement Usindiso Commission ReportOn Sunday, 5 May 2024, Justice Khampepe published the report on part (a) (i) of the Terms of Reference of the Commission of Inquiry into Usindiso Building after it was submitted to the Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi. The report delves into the circumstances surrounding the fire that killed 76 individuals and left dozens injured and homeless. The Commission finds that the City of Johannesburg and its entities, including the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), must bear partial responsibility and/or accountability for the tragedy and that that the consequences of the fire would have been mitigated had the City complied with its legal obligations as owner and municipality. 

Whilst the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) has no direct relationship with the residents of the building, it has participated in the Commission’s proceedings since its commencement in October 2023, acting on behalf of the Inner-City Federation (ICF) and itself. SERI and ICF have shared interest in ensuring that the recommendations made in part (a) (i) of the Terms of Reference and part (a) (ii) of the Terms of Reference are informed by the lived realities of people living in the inner city of Johannesburg, as well as the law and constitutional protections.

The Commission finds that the Usindiso building was abandoned by the City and the JPC since 2019 at least and that the City contravened various health, fire-safety, town planning and building control legislation as well as its own By-laws.The Commission recommends that disciplinary processes be initiated against the accounting officers of the City's entities, namely JPC, Johannesburg Water, City Power, and Pikitup, in cases where evidence indicates they failed to fulfil their duties. Had these duties been fulfilled, the tragedy at Usindiso building could have been prevented. 

SERI and ICF welcome the Commission’s findings and support the recommendation for disciplinary action against Ms. Helen Botes of the JPC, as well as considerations for MMCs for Human Settlements and Public Safety, alongside the accounting officers of Joburg Water, City Power, and Pikitup. We see these recommendations as a crucial step towards accountability and justice for the victims of this fire.

While we commend the Commission for its thorough assessment, we express disappointment for the absence of recommendations for payment of compensation to the victims and their families. We believe these would be crucial to address the urgent needs of those affected who were left destitute by the fire and have since been displaced. We are concerned that the report is silent on the evictions, detentions, and deportations of surviving residents. 

SERI and ICF agree with the Commission's assessment that the hazardous conditions in the Usindiso Building are symptomatic of the City's broader failure to address similar challenges in the inner-city of Johannesburg. SERI and ICF look forward to part (a) (ii) of the Terms of Reference, which will focus on the housing crisis in the inner city, presenting an opportunity to delve deeper into these systemic issues. 

In his address to the media, Premier Lesufi announced the establishment of an implementation committee, which SERI and ICF welcome. This initiative is as an important step towards ensuring that the Commission’s findings translate into tangible outcomes, particularly concerning the identification of deceased victims and the accountability of officials. We urge the Premier to be inclusive regarding the composition of this committee.

Contact details:  

  • Edward Molopi, SERI senior communications and advocacy officer, edward[at]seri-sa.org / 082 590 9638
  • Osmond Mngomezulu, SERI attorney, Osmond[at]seri-sa.org / 082 590 8826
  • Siyabonga Mahlangu, ICF executive member, innercityfederation[at]gmail.com


  • Download the full statement here
  • Access relevant material from the Usindiso Commission of Inquiry here.