Marshalltown fire: Accused fears for his safety after confession

Thembiso Lawrence Mdlalose fears for his life after confessing in camera to burning a building in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, last August.

Mdlalose confessed to the arson twice this week. On Tuesday, his confession shocked the commission of enquiry into the building fire that claimed 77 lives and on Wednesday he repeated it before the magistrate. 

The 30-year-old accused made his first court appearance before the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on Thursday.

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

Judge Ulanda Labuschagne postponed the matter to February 1 for address verification and particulars in order for the accused to apply for bail.

During the court proceedings the prosecutor, Kwanele Ndungeni, said that the state plans to oppose bail next month.

Legal representative Dumisani Mabunda said Mdlalose will be placed in a private prison because the matter at hand involves a drug dealer from Tanzania, a fact which could put his client in jeopardy.

“I cannot say where he will be held; my client’s safety is important,” Mabunda said.


Speaking to media outside the court, Mabunda said he just received a copy of the “so-called” confession from his client.

“It is said that this confession was made before a particular magistrate, and I need to consult with him based on that. However, it is obviously on record already. Whether he is going to be guilty or not depends on my consultation with him and the investigations.”

Confession was made in front of a magistrate

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Phindi Mjonondwana said that she cannot reveal to much at this point as she does not want to jeopardise the investigations.

“Today was a brief court appearance just to place the charges formally before the court, luckily the accused is represented and his lawyer is currently taking instructions. As the persecution we can not rely on the evidence that was presented in the commission, so the state is busy with its own investigations-with what we currently have we are able to place the matter before court,” Mjonondwana.

“We can confirm that a confession was made in front of a magistrate so it meets the requirements of section 217 of the Criminal Procedure Act.”

Police investigations are underway.

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