Johannesburg – Just under a year ago, a fatal fire ravaged Marshalltown in downtown Johannesburg, claiming the lives of 70 individuals. This tragic incident underscored the precarious situation of those occupying residential buildings illegally, enduring poor and uninhabitable conditions in the inner city.
Given the magnitude of this event, decisive action from the government and authorities to prevent the recurrence of such disasters has been absent. Earlier this week, a woman reportedly ignited a fire during a domestic dispute, resulting in the death of two individuals and the injury of four others.
Thando George, a Candidate Attorney at the Socio-Economic Rights Institution of South Africa (SERI), noted that since the Marshalltown fire, the government has demonstrated an interest and willingness to engage with relevant stakeholders to find solutions for the housing crisis in the city.
Despite this apparent willingness, George criticised the government for not implementing proactive measures to ensure a secure environment where people are safeguarded against such calamities.
“Sadly, nothing has come of those engagements. It just seems that when an incident like this happens, we are all shocked, and the whole country is at a standstill. Still, unfortunately, the people who are impacted by that moment carry on with those scars. They carry on living in those conditions, and nothing seems to materialise.”
Government Needs Plans to Address the Housing Issues
SERI has persistently sought to engage with the provincial and national government, reaching out to them numerous times without success.
According to George, their requests are straightforward and align with constitutional principles. Therefore, the government should offer a lasting solution to those affected by the housing crisis. They are responsible for providing their citizens with dignified housing, adhering to their obligation in this regard.
“The government is democratically elected to serve the people. To ensure that the rights of the poor are safeguarded and to engage and see what solutions they can provide. To ensure everyone has dignified and affordable housing within the inner city.”
The core objectives of SERI are to ensure that the inner-city buildings rightfully belong to their owners, undergo rehabilitation to guarantee safety and habitability, and are made affordable. It is hoped that the urgency of the matter is acknowledged without necessitating another deadly incident to bring attention to an issue affecting the lives and properties of both citizens and foreigners.