LISTEN | Usindiso arson suspect set to show cops where he claims murder occurred, fire was started

Sthembiso Lawrence Mdlalose, 31, remanded for further investigations to unfold

01 February 2024 - 14:45
By Phathu Luvhengo
A total of 76 people were killed when a building in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, was engulfed by fire on August 31 2023. File photo.
Image: THULANI MBELE A total of 76 people were killed when a building in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, was engulfed by fire on August 31 2023. File photo.

The case against the 31-year-old man who claimed to be responsible for the fire that killed 76 people in Johannesburg's inner-city Marshalltown building has been postponed to March 6 for further investigation.

Sthembiso Lawrence Mdlalose was remanded after a brief court appearance at the Johannesburg magistrate's court on Thursday. 

Mdlalose initially confessed to starting the fire at the commission of inquiry led by Justice Sisi Khampepe and was arrested later that day. He made a second confession before a magistrate the next day.

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 allegedly poured petrol on the body and started a fire to cover up the murder. According to his version, this rapidly spread, leading to the inferno which devastated the so-called Usindiso building on August 31.


Talking to journalists outside court, his legal representative Dumisani Mabunda said the matter was postponed at the request of the state as they await a J88 document recording medical evidence and postmortem reports.

His client is also expected to be asked to show police investigators the specifics on what he claimed happened, and where.

It is said that the accused made a confession and based on that confession, the state wants to investigate by going to the building for the accused to do what we call pointing out — to indicate to the police what happened at what stage and he points out those particular scenes at the building,” said Mabunda. 

The case was initially postponed to Thursday during his first appearance for profiling and preparation for a formal bail hearing. The court, however, heard that the two addresses he provided to the police were negative after verification.

Mdlalose also abandoned his bail application, which the state was intending to oppose. 

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Gauteng spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said: We are still awaiting the results of the postmortem of the people that were deceased on the day. We have also given instructions to the police to conduct a pointing out with the accused as well as doctors' reports in the form of J88s that we are still awaiting so we can conclude the investigations and be ready for the next step.”

Mdlalose's nationality and status in the country is being checked too, she said.

“According to what we have received from the police, he is 31. You will also recall among the outstanding investigations, as we have indicated in court, is his profiling with the home affairs department. That information, we were told it would take about a week for home affairs to conclude profiling him and handing over the information to the police.”

Mdlalose is facing one count of arson, 76 counts of murder and 86 counts of attempted murder.