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Johannesburg CBD Fire Inquiry Unaware Of Home Affairs’ Bid To Deport Witnesses

The commission of inquiry looking into the deadly Marshalltown fire says it is not aware that some prospective witnesses stood to be deported.

In August, a fire ripped through a five-storey building in the inner city of Johannesburg, killing over 70 people and displacing hundreds more.

At least 32 undocumented migrants who stayed in the building are detained at the Lindela Repatriation Centre, pending the outcome of a legal battle to stop them from being deported.

The Norton Rose Fulbright law firm is challenging the Department of Home Affairs’ application to have the victims repatriated before the conclusion of the commission of inquiry.

While the commission of inquiry didn’t draw up a list of victims who would take the stand, there is a possibility that some of them would be deported if the high court ruled in favour of the Department of Home Affairs.

The commission’s spokesperson, advocate Thulani Makhubela, said if some survivors who would also be listed as witnesses were deported, a plan might need to be made to return them to the country.

“If Home Affairs has decided to deport someone, it would then be upon us to see how important evidence from that person is. We will basically cross that bridge when we get there.”

He added that he had no assurance whether any of the 32 undocumented migrants had been approached by the commission’s evidence team.

Makhubela said the inquiry, which was postponed indefinitely due to safety compliance issues, might proceed with its work in the first week of December.