Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said President Cyril Ramaphosa is being kept updated on the aftermath of blaze that left over 73 dead and dozens injured.
Speaking at the scene of the tragedy, Ntshavheni said the president was receiving updates on the disaster.
She told Newzroom Afrika Ramaphosa would soon visit the area and address the catastrophe.
“The president is currently in Gqeberha. When this incident was recorded, he was already there. He is going to come and make the necessary pronouncements but we will receive reports from the city and the province”.
Speaking at the opening of a forensic facility in the Eastern Cape, Ramaphosa offered his condolences to victims of the tragedy.
“My thoughts are also with those who have lost their accommodation in this terrible incident. It is a great tragedy felt by families whose loved ones perished in this terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to every person affected.”
An informal settlement inside a building
Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi likened the building to an informal settlement and said partitions in the building made rescue efforts more difficult.
“Informal areas where there are partitions, so the risk of a person being trapped is high. We want to remove any uncertainty by making sure we are clearing the building floor-by-floor.”
City of Joburg MMC for public safety Dr Mgcini Tshwaku said the devastation was made worse by a locked security gate, which led to dozens being crushed to death.
“A gate was closed, so people couldn’t get out. When firefighters came in they saw people who were being smashed against a security gate”.
Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda said at least 300 people, including 140 families, had been displaced by the fire.
He said the building was owned by the city, but was leased to an non-governmental organisation (NGO) and later “hijacked”.
“It was not sold, it was leased to an NGO to in fact run their [organisation] to house women to be given relief of some sort and that’s when things escalated out of control because remember when the city leases a building, whoever is taking responsibility needs to make sure that the building is well kept and that they can return it to the city in the condition which they found it in.
“But I cannot be able to project and predict how a business would then find itself in a situation where it is abandoning its operations for one reason or the other,” he told reporters.