Following his arrest, Sithembiso Lawrence Mdlalose has been formally charged with arson, as well as 76 counts of murder and 86 counts of attempted murder, in connection with the tragic Usindiso building fire. Both the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Mdlalose’s attorney confirmed verified that he confessed before a magistrate. Outside the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, Dumisani Mabunda, representing Mdlalose, publicly stated that his client is willing to cooperate fully with the authorities.

By Staff Reporter

The man responsible for the devastating fire that tragically took the lives of 76 people at the Usindiso building in Marshalltown, Johannesburg on 31 August last year, has now confessed before a magistrate. During a commission of inquiry, he admitted to his involvement, but this official confession marks a significant step forward in holding him accountable for this horrific crime.

Both Phindi Mjonondwane, the spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, and Dumisani Mabunda, the accused’s attorney, confirmed that Sithembiso Lawrence Mdlalose confessed on Wednesday voluntarily and without any coercion.

In his court appearance at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, Mdlalose was formally charged with 86 counts of attempted murder, 76 counts of murder, and arson.

The NPA’s Mjonondwane informed the media that they would not base their decision on the evidence presented to the commission by the accused.

“The State is busy with its investigations. We have managed to place the matter before the court. We confirm that a confession was deduced before a magistrate. The confession meets the requirements of the Criminal Procedure Act,” she said.

“The police are gathering evidence to corroborate what we have at our disposal. At this stage, we can’t confirm if Mdlalose is a first-time offender or a repeat offender. Investigations are ongoing. Among the outstanding matters is the profiling of the accused.”

Mdlalose and Mabunda had a consultation in the courtroom. Afterwards, Mdlalose’s attorney confirmed that his client had given two addresses in Johannesburg and Soweto as potential places of residence if he were to be granted bail.

Mabunda later acknowledged that he had received a copy of Mdlalose’s confession to the magistrate and indicated that they still needed to review it. He also mentioned that he had received his client’s statement from the commission of inquiry earlier in the week, in which Mdlalose confessed to starting the fire.

Mabunda told the media that they are “going to cooperate with the State. Whether he pleads guilty or not depends on our consultation.”

Mdlalose’s arrest took place promptly on Tuesday afternoon, following his provision of incriminating testimony to the commission, where he openly acknowledged his involvement.

He admitted to starting the fire last year on August 31, which resulted in 76 deaths and 86 injuries. Mdlalose confessed to assaulting an individual at the behest of a notorious Tanzanian drug lord inside a room he referred to as the “slaughterhouse”.

The victim was covered with a sack, and upon removing it, Mdlalose said he recognised the person and proceeded to strangle him. He then reportedly purchased petrol from a nearby filling station, poured it over the victim, and set him on fire which later spread to other parts of the building.

Mdlalose is expected to appear in court again on the 1st of February.

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