Man held for murder over South Africa building fire

Connie Queline

Man held for murder over South Africa building fire

A man has ben arrested on suspicion of 76 murders after telling a public inquiry he started last August’s deadly fire in a Johannesburg building.

The 29-year-old man made the confession while giving evidence at the inquiry, police said.

The fire ripped through the Usindiso building in Marshalltown, where many poor people were living, claiming 77 lives and leaving many injured.

The suspect also faces charges of arson and 120 counts of attempted murder.

The South African Police Service said the suspect, who cannot be identified, is expected to appear in court soon.

The force said the man had confessed to “being involved in starting the tragic fire”.

The Usindiso building was home to hundreds of people, some of the poorest people in South African society.

The fire highlighted the issue of buildings abandoned or neglected by owners, which are left without basic services such as water and electricity or fire safety measures.

Such buildings are sometimes “hijacked” – taken over by criminals who then make demands on residents.

The City of Johannesburg owned the Usindiso building. On Monday Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda said 188 “bad” buildings were being investigated, with 134 of them in the inner city.

The public inquiry into the disaster is taking evidence on the fire and the wider issue of unsafe buildings and is due to report later this year.

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