Woman charged in 2nd deadly Joburg building fire abandons bail

The woman accused of starting a fire that saw another hijacked building in Joburg’s central business district go up in flames has abandoned her bail application.

This is not related to the Usindiso building fire that happened in August last year. A commission of inquiry is currently probing the Usindiso fire.

Second unrelated incident in inner city 

This particular incident took place on January 21, at the derelict Express Building on Nugget Street. Two people died in the fire, and properties belonging to some of the building’s residents were destroyed. 

Bonisiwe Gumede, 30, on Wednesday appeared in the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on arson charges.

Witnesses told the authorities she torched the building in a heated argument with her partner.

No residential address in Gauteng

Gumede’s lawyer, Tutula Nduna, said that her client has decided to abandon her bail application.

“We had an issue with the address as the client had nobody to accommodate her in Gauteng. She is originally from KwaZulu-Natal. Unfortunately, she cannot use that address. She has to use an address that is in the jurisdiction and of the court,” said Nduna.

She added that the legal team has advised their client to abandon bail as there was no likelihood, due to unfavourable factors, for her to secure bail on the day.

State does not have enough evidence — lawyer

“But for trial, we believe that the state does not have enough evidence to convict her. It is not a loss for my client to abandon bail as her life is also in danger on the streets,” said Nduna.

“We believe as defence that the state does not have enough evidence to convict our client. The state must prove that they have a case against her. We will continue to represent her for purposes of trial and defend her rights until the end.”

Sunday World understands that the case will now appear for trial early in March.

Nduna told Sunday World that she will continue to represent her client for purposes of trial.

“We assume that it is still under investigations,” she said.

Heated argument with partner

It’s alleged that Gumede and her partner had a heated argument. During the fight, she doused the door of the room she shared with her partner with petrol and set it alight.

Sizwe Cele and his partner were reportedly sleeping in the room next door when the blaze killed them.

His uncle, Msongelo Mnisi, described the process of identifying his nephew’s body as painful. This as both victims were burnt beyond recognition.

DNA swabs were taken from one of Cele’s siblings to confirm his identity before his remains were released to the family for burial.

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