Deadly blaze exposes a secret


Vannin Court where squatters live in Johannesburg. — ©2023 The New York Times Company

DAYS after the fire, officials in Johannesburg reached for a well-worn script. They gathered the media for a made-for-television police raid.

The blaze had swept through a government property at 80 Albert St, a deathtrap of a building where squatters pilfered electricity, built indoor shacks out of cardboard and cooked on paraffin stoves. The authorities could do nothing there except sift through the ashes.

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