Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

“I don’t know where the other two are-“ a Zimbabwean mum’s desperate search for children as Joburg fire death toll rises

Zimbabwean national Alice Garo, one of the residents of the Johannesburg building that caught fire in the early hours of Thursday morning, had to endure the agonising search for her two children, who were missing among many others in the inferno that had claimed as many as 74 people by the afternoon.

Garo, alongside hundreds of other people suspected to be foreigners, were trapped in what authorities have said is a hijacked building at the corner of Alberts and Delvers Street in inner Johannesburg.

Hijacked buildings, places of shelter that have been taken over by rogue elements, are commonplace in Johannesburg.

The city of Johannesburg confirmed in a news conference that it owned the building but said cartels had taken it over.

One of the building’s tenants was Garo, who had managed to escape with two of her children when the blaze started but could not locate two others. As search and rescue operations continued, she told the media that she hoped that her children were still alive.

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“We were all inside when I heard screams. My eldest son came into my room saying it’s bad in our building. I grabbed my youngest son and dashed as the fire started growing. My other son managed to escape. I don’t know where the other two are,” she said.

Garo revealed that they had been paying R1200 in rentals to live in the building.

“This is a hijacked building. We don’t pay for electricity and water. This place is unsafe and it harbours criminals,” Garo said.

Speaking during a post-cabinet briefing in Pretoria on Thursday, South African Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said while they sympathised with families grieving their loved ones from the inferno, it was not the job of the South African government to provide housing for illegal immigrants living in hijacked buildings.

“We are aware that in hijacked buildings there is no supply of electricity, water and there will be all sorts of things, but we don’t want to speculate on the causes of that fire,” she said.

Whether it’s an indication that there is a housing problem, no it’s not, because the majority of those people who stay and reside in hijacked buildings are not South African and they are not in this country legally and the government cannot provide housing to illegal immigrants.

“The minister of human settlements continues to work with the cities, municipalities and provincial governments to provide housing for all South Africans.”