In a significant development at the Commission of Inquiry into the Usindiso building fire in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, retired Justice Sisi Khampepe has recused Advocate Thulani Makhubela from his role as a commissioner. This decision was made following an application by the building’s residents, who expressed concerns over Makhubela’s tweets, which they perceived as xenophobic.
As per SABC News, the residents argued that Makhubela’s alleged bias towards foreigners and his association with Operation Dudula made him unfit to participate in the investigation. The Commission’s task is to investigate the cause of the August fire, determine responsibility, and address the issue of hijacked buildings in Johannesburg’s CBD. The fire tragically resulted in the deaths of seventy-seven people.
Justice Khampepe, in her ruling, found substantial evidence supporting the residents’ claims of bias. She stated, “In my view, Commissioner Makhubela’s association with Operation Dudula, a group which is founded on xenophobia rhetoric, will not be an impartial mind to be on the adjudication of the issues before the commission.” This recusal underscores the importance of impartiality and fairness in the ongoing inquiry, which seeks not only to uncover the facts of the tragic fire but also to address broader issues affecting the safety and well-being of Johannesburg’s residents.