Johannesburg fire is the result of neglect and discrimination against poor and workers

Thapelo Mohapi, General Secretary of Abahlali baseMjondolo, talks about the neglect of the poor and working people that led to at least 77 deaths in a recent fire in Johannesburg. He also explains the rampant xenophobia in the aftermath of that horrific tragedy

September 13, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch

On August 31, a horrific fire in a building in Johannesburg claimed at least 77 lives. Most of those killed were immigrants from other African countries who had come to South Africa to try to eke out a living. After the fire, the immigrant community became the target of attacks by politicians who blamed their presence for the disaster.

We spoke to Thapelo Mohapi, General Secretary of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM), the shack dwellers’ movement, one of the few organizations to take a strong stand against this xenophobia. Thapelo talks about the structural reasons that led to the fire and the neglect of the poor and the working class in cities such as Johannesburg, He also explains the politics of xenophobia and how it is used to divide the workers.

Thapelo also talks about the failures of the ANC government and the kind of measures needed to prevent such tragedies.