President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise to help those displaced in Thursday’s Joburg CBD fire has sparked mixed reactions, with Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie calling for alternative action.
At least 73 people, including a one-year-old and six other children, died and more than 50 others were injured when a fire broke out at a five-storey building in the city.
Speaking on the scene of the tragedy, Ramaphosa said the government would help those displaced in the disaster.
Read: Hijacked Joburg building fire: Survivors tell their stories
“Those who lost their homes or accommodation will be catered for. The ministers, MECs, the province, and the city are working full out to make sure those who need assistance, from accommodation to trauma counselling and hospitalisation will be looked after”.
Government across all levels is working around the clock to ensure that those who need assistance, from alternative accommodation to trauma counselling, are being looked after. #JHBFire pic.twitter.com/aEEJRjRxCi
— Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) August 31, 2023
While some welcomed the move, McKenzie said those living in the building illegally should rather face the might of the law.
“We should compensate the real owner of the building if it was privately owned before the highjack. We should not encourage lawlessness, mainly not from the president of South Africa. This is a tragic lesson that we should prevent by making sure we clean up.”
Read: Building fire leaves 73 people dead in downtown Johannesburg
McKenzie said the city is full of illegally occupied buildings that are fire hazards and should be dealt with.
“We cannot find a better reason than this tragedy to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Let’s clean up the whole city and give accommodation to South Africans who have been waiting for houses forever”.
Officials, including Joburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Lebogang Maile and Transport MMC Kenny Kunene, blamed the tragedy on syndicates hijacking buildings.
Ramaphosa said these criminal elements needed to be “rooted out”.
“It is these kinds of buildings that are overtaken by criminals, who then levy rent on vulnerable people and families who need accommodation in the inner city. Poor people need to live in the city, but there needs to be law and order in the city”.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, with emergency services comparing the building to an indoor informal settlement with over 80 shacks.