Our deepest solidarity with the victims of the fire in Johannesburg

31 August 2023
Abahlali baseMjondolo press statement

Our deepest solidarity with the victims of the fire in Johannesburg

The news that at least 73 people have died in the terrible fire in downtown Johannesburg has left all people of good conscience reeling in pain. Just as with the Grenfell Tower Fire in London in 2017 that took 72 lives, and just like the shack fires that tear through our communities year after year, this fire is a direct result of the contempt for the lives of the poor by politicians and the state.

Last Sunday five children died in a shack fire in the Itireleng shack settlement in Pretoria. Shack fires are relentless. We are left to burn year after year. In South Africa to be poor is to live with the constant risk of fire.

We extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends and neighbours of all who have lost their lives, suffered injuries and lost their worldly goods. Alwehlanga lungehlanga.

We are sad to the depth of our souls. We are also deeply, deeply angry. We are angry that the poor are left to live in life threatening conditions. We are angry that politicians from both the ANC and the DA have swept in like vultures to blame both the victims and progressive lawyers, lawyers who are on the side of the poor. We are angry at the xenophobic organisations and individuals that have celebrated the fire because some of the people who have lost their lives are migrants. This is deeply sickening. It is pure fascism and must be named and contested as such. People who revel in the suffering of others because they were born in other countries are enemies of humanity.

Nobody is poor because their neighbour was born in another country. All over the world the politicians that serve the rich encourage this nonsense to turn the poor against each other and protect the rich from the anger of the people. All over the world the left works to build unity among the poor and the working class to challenge the power of corrupt and repressive politicians and capitalism to ensure a decent life for all.

A neighbour is a neighbour, a worker is a worker and a comrade is a comrade irrespective of where they were born.

If you live in Johannesburg you are from Johannesburg.

We call on all people of good conscience to oppose this sickening xenophobia clearly, directly and bravely, and to work to build the unity of the oppressed across South Africa.

We stand with the progressive lawyers who work with and for the poor. The statements by politicians like Colleen Makhubele and Malusi Booi are disgraceful and an affront to logic and to human decency.

We demand that the politicians and the state accept responsibility for this disaster and commit themselves to ensuring decent and safe living conditions for all. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all people in the country have access to safe and decent homes and to support the self-organised initiatives from below to secure housing.

As Africans it is our belief that we must mourn with the families that are grieving for their loved ones. It is very unfortunate that there are people who have lost their humanity and continue to blame the poor for their suffering even when they are grieving. Our hearts and souls are with the families of those who lost their lives in this devastating fire. May they find comfort at this difficult time.

Thapelo Mohapi: 084 576 5117
Mqapheli Bonono: 073 067 3274
Snenhlanhla Mncanyana: 073 832 3331