Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Man Arrested on 76 Counts of Homicide in Johannesburg Constructing Fireplace


The police in South Africa mentioned on Wednesday that they’d arrested a person who confessed to beginning a hearth in a derelict Johannesburg constructing final August that killed dozens of individuals, a few of whom leaped to their deaths or have been trapped behind locked safety gates.

The 29-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday on 76 counts of homicide and 120 counts of tried homicide, mentioned Col. Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi, a spokeswoman for the police in Gauteng Province, which incorporates Johannesburg. The person’s identify has not been launched.

Officers initially mentioned that the hearth, which tore by way of an overcrowded four-story constructing within the early hours of Aug. 31, had killed 77 folks. However a fee investigating the catastrophe was later informed that the quantity was doubtful due to how badly a few of the our bodies have been burned.

The hearth targeted worldwide consideration on a whole bunch of rundown, illegally occupied buildings in Johannesburg just like the one which burned, the place poor households who can not afford safer housing have settled. These city squatter camps are often called “hijacked” buildings as a result of they’re typically taken over by gangs that deal medicine and extort residents for hire funds.

The 29-year-old man was arrested after testifying on Tuesday earlier than the fee investigating the hearth. The fee’s hearings have been live-streamed, however the man testified behind closed doorways out of worry that gang leaders who had been working out of the constructing would have him killed, the fee’s lead lawyer mentioned.

“His life could also be in peril if made public,” the lawyer, Ishmael Semenya, mentioned throughout a public portion of the listening to.

The police didn’t present particulars in regards to the man’s reported confession. In response to South African information retailers, he mentioned in his testimony on Tuesday that he had strangled a person, poured gasoline over the physique and set hearth to it, and that the hearth had unfold.

These killed within the blaze included a minimum of a dozen kids — two of them toddlers named Reminiscence — migrants from different African nations and folks holding down jobs as academics and technicians. Neighbors and residents mentioned the constructing additionally housed legal gangs that bought medicine on the sidewalk and robbed passers-by.

The federal government owned the constructing and lots of others prefer it. Going block by block and looking out information, New York Instances reporters final yr recognized a minimum of 127 comparable buildings, uncared for loss of life traps, within the heart of Johannesburg.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has mentioned that the hearth was a “wake-up name” for South Africa, the place the price of residing places housing out of attain for a lot of, and the place metropolis governments look the opposite manner as folks occupy garbage-strewn buildings with out water or electrical energy.

The fee investigating the hearth halted its work final yr after the constructing that housed it was itself deemed to be a hearth hazard. Its hearings resumed this month.

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