The countdown has begun as the Commission of Inquiry gears up to kick off its intensive investigation into the devastating fire that claimed the lives of at least 77 individuals in Marshalltown.
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s decisive action in establishing this Commission signals a turning point in the quest for answers and accountability following the tragedy and the pervasive issue of hijacked buildings in the region.
With a firmly set date, the public eagerly awaits the commencement of the Commission’s crucial work.
The Commission, which briefed the media on its activities, including details on the rules and regulations, the hearing venue, proceedings, security matters, the availability of psychosocial services, an invitation for the public to contribute information, and media coverage guidelines, announced that the public hearings of Part A of the inquiry will begin on 26 October 2023 at 10:00 am.
Previously, Premier Lesufi announced that the Commission’s work would be divided into two parts.
Part A will investigate the cause of the fire and identify anyone who may be held accountable for the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained during the incident.
Meanwhile, Part B of the inquiry will focus on the disturbing trend of buildings in the region being abandoned by their rightful landlords or owners and subsequently taken over by criminal syndicates or other groups.
These buildings are then leased to tenants who are often vulnerable and unable to afford alternative housing. These tenants are deprived of essential services, including water, electricity, refuse removal, sanitation, and the payment of rates and taxes.
The proceedings will be public at Sunnyside Office Park, 32 Princess of Wales Terrace, Wits Clinical Research Offices, Building C, Second Floor, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2193.
To gather essential information and evidence, Chairperson Sisi Khampepe has issued an open invitation to the public.
“Any person providing information who wishes to remain anonymous, the Commission will respect their decision and keep their identity confidential.”
Information can be submitted to the Commission Offices in Johannesburg’s Sunnyside Office Park, Parktown. Notably, the Commission respects the confidentiality of those who choose to remain anonymous.
Recognizing the significant pain and trauma experienced by the victims and their families, the Commission is committed to providing psychological support during and after the proceedings.
“The purpose of the Commission’s activities is to assist the victims in finding closure, understanding that the process may cause them further distress.
“Psychological support for the victims and the Commission will be available during and after the proceedings. The Commission explained that the task will be executed with the diligence and sensitivity it requires,” the Commission explained.
Meanwhile, specific rules and guidelines will govern media coverage of the Commission’s proceedings. These regulations, as set out in Rule 2 of the rules governing the proceedings, will ensure that media entities and parties covering the inquiry do so ethically and responsibly.
By Christopher Sello