Case of suspect in Joburg’s deadly marshalltown fire postponed

The Johannesburg magistrate’s court has postponed the murder case of a man accused of starting the deadly Marhshalltown fire in Johannesburg.

The Usindiso building fire in Marshalltown, Joburg CBD, in August last year claimed 76 lives and left 86 injured.

Sithembiso Lawrence Mdlalose’s case has been moved to March 6 for further investigations, as well as 11 post-mortems and 30 outstanding J88 reports. A J88 report is a key document recording medical evidence that may be needed in order to obtain a conviction.

False residential addresses

This comes after the addresses that Mdlalose provided to the court were returned negative. He had provided two addresses, one in the central business district and one in Soweto. Magistrate Ulanda Labuschagne said when the police went to verify the address in Soweto, his relatives who stay in the house said they last saw Mdlalose in 2017 and cannot afford to know his whereabouts.

Mdlalose abandoned bail and did not cite reasons for it.

Sunday World understands that Mdlalose is expected to point out the scene, accompanied by police and an investigating officer.

His lawyer, Dumisani Mabunda, said the state should prove its case.

Safety measures in jail for suspect

“He who alleges must prove. The onus rests with the state to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Hence, they are doing investigations to substantiate their allegations against the accused,” he said.

Mdlalose, 31, is kept in a private cell at Johannesburg Prison, popularly known as Sun City. This is for safety reasons, after his lawyer asked the police to ensure his safety.

In court last week, Mabunda said his client was fearing for his life as the matter was in the hands of a Tanzanian drug dealer. The drug dealer is accused of running drugs and other nefarious activities at the Usindiso building.

Fatal fire

Mdlalose gave testimony at the commission of inquiry that is probing the fire at the Usindiso building.

He confessed before the commission chair, retired justice Sisi Khamphephe, stating that he was the man who started the deadly fire.

He is facing one charge of arson, 76 counts of murder, and 86 counts of attempted murder.

Tragic loss of lives

At the inquiry this week, Siphiwe Ngcobo said she lost her child during the fateful night of the fire. Ngcobo said she was outside the building cooking on her braai stand when she heard a person crying.

Two of her children, who were inside the building when it was gutted by fire, managed to escape. However, one of her children died, she said.

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