A man has been taken into custody on suspicion of 76 murders after admitting to a public inquiry that he was the cause of the fatal fire at a Johannesburg building in August.
The police revealed that the 29-year-old admitted to the crime during his testimony during the police inquiry.
A fire that devastated the Usindiso building in Marshalltown, where a large number of poor individuals resided, last year claimed 77 lives and wounded numerous more.
The incident brought to light the problem of South African building owners abandoning or failing to maintain their properties.
A spokesman for the South African Police Service said that the suspect, who is yet to be identified, will be appearing in court soon.
In addition, a charge of arson and 120 counts of attempted murder are anticipated against him.
The police said that during a session of the inquiry, the suspect admitted to “being involved in starting the tragic fire.”
Hundreds of the poorest members of the South African society lived at the Usindiso building.
Such abandoned houses are occasionally “hijacked,” or taken over, by criminals who make demands of the occupants. They are frequently left without essential facilities like water and power or fire protection precautions.
The Usindiso building was owned by the City of Johannesburg, and Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda said on Monday that 188 “bad” buildings—134 of which were located within the inner city—were under investigation.
The public investigation into the tragedy is gathering information on the fire and the more general problem of dangerous structures, with a report expected later this year.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared shortly after the fire that it had served as a “wake up call” for South Africa and that the city of Johannesburg needed to address problems related to housing and services in the inner city.
There is a severe housing scarcity in South Africa; in Johannesburg, there are said to be 15,000 homeless people.