Usindiso fire: Arson suspect has made second confession
The Marshalltown resident who confessed to starting the fire that killed 76 people in Johannesburg's inner-city last year has made a second admission of guilt, this time to a magistrate.
Sthembiso Lawrence Mdlalose made his first appearance at the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on Thursday on one count of arson, 76 counts of murder and 86 counts of attempted murder.
On Tuesday he made his first confession at the commission of inquiry led by justice Sisi Khampepe into the cause of the fire at the Usindiso building. He was arrested later that day.
Phindi Mjonondwane, Gauteng National Prosecuting authority spokesperson,aid he "adduced a confession before a magistrate on Wednesday.
"The case has been postponed [to February 1] for profiling of the accused in preparation for a formal bail hearing," she said.
Mdlalose is believed to be 31 years old, she said, as opposed to earlier statements by police that he is 29.
He claimed at the inquiry that he had beaten and strangled another resident while high on drugs at the behest of a drug lord. He poured petrol on the body and started a fire to cover up the murder. This rapidly spread, leading to the inferno which devastated the building on August 31.
The apartment block on the corner Delvers and Albert streets was owned by the City of Johannesburg and served as a shelter for abused women and children known as Usindiso. However, the building was taken over by illegal landlords who charged residents more than R1,000 a month for accommodation with no basic services.
Firefighters responding to the blaze battled to gain access to the building as routes were either blocked or sealed off using a unsuitable materials. The building had no fire extinguishers or fire hoses. Some of staircases were blocked and converted into makeshift rooms.
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