South Africa: Catholic Bishops – Real Culprits of Joburg Fire Are Those in Power Who Have Allowed Slumlords to Flourish

The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a statement the day after a deadly fire killed 77 people in downtown Johannesburg. They said the ‘real culprits’ of the deadly blaze were ‘slumlords’.

The bishops said that they were deeply disturbed by the dangerous anti-immigrant rhetoric that is being normalised. Are the slumlords the only ones to be blamed? Has the “blame game” been normalised?

And who are the real culprits of the tragic fire that left more than 77 people dead in downtown Johannesburg, which has infamously become known as “80 Albert Street”?

“The real culprits”, the Catholic bishops said in a statement a day after the fire, are “slumlords who capture such buildings and who unscrupulously exploit the homeless and the poor, forcing them to live in inhumane and dangerous situations while charging them rent for the ‘privilege’ to live in such death traps”.

They said that slumlords are “symptomatic of the widespread sense of lawlessness that prevails in our country that such illegality is allowed to happen and goes unpunished”.

The bishops are correct. Slumlords have captured many buildings in Johannesburg – and other cities in South Africa. For more than a week, various news outlets, including Daily Maverick, have exposed the inhumane conditions many people find themselves in, in so-called “hijacked” buildings run by slumlords.

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