On Sunday, 10 September 2023, the Sunday Times published an op-ed by SERI's Nkosinathi Sithole entitled, 'Fire proves the apartheid ethos of the Central Pass Office hasn't died'. In the piece, Sithole reflects on the devastating fire that took place at the building at 80 Albert Street on 31 August which claimed the lives of 77 people.
Sithole also tracks the history of the building, which under apartheid, it housed the Department of Non-European Affairs' Central Pass Office. He writes: "the office from which the "dompas", which controlled the movement of black people in South Africa, was issued and that was responsible for authorising the expulsion of "unworthy black people" from Johannesburg, denying them a place in the inner city."
The building later served as a shelter, named Usindiso Women's Shelter and was leased by the NGO Usindiso Industries from 2001. However, the building fell into disrepair like many other shelters and transitional housing due to neglect by the City.
In the op-ed, Sithole argues that: "The city's response and attitude towards the surviving residents of Usindiso Women's Shelter and those of other similar occupied buildings espouses the same apartheid systematic technique to rid the inner city of poor people who cannot afford the standard of a gentrified city.
- Access the full op-ed here.