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Facing 76 murder counts, man accused of starting Usindiso building fire retracts confession

Facing 76 murder counts, man accused of starting Usindiso building fire retracts confession
Seventy-six people died in the 31 August 2023 fire in Marshalltown, Johannesburg. (Photos: Supplied / Felix Dlangamandla)

Sthembiso Mdlalose has retracted his confession that he started the Marshalltown fire that killed 76 people and said he intends to plead not guilty to 76 counts of murder and 86 counts of attempted murder.

In January, Sthembiso Mdlalose confessed before the commission of inquiry investigating the Marshalltown fire of 31 August 2023 that he started the fire, which killed 76 people and injured 86 others, to cover up a murder. He made the same confession to a magistrate.

usindiso fire retract confession

A recycler passes the sealed-off Usindiso building in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, on 1 February 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

He said he strangled and set alight a man who had been brought to the ground floor of the building at 80 Albert Street, Marshalltown and started the fire to cover up the murder.

He claimed there had been more bodies in the building before the fire.

Mdlalose’s version was seemingly corroborated by some of the victims’ testimony heard before the commission chaired by Justice Sisi Khampepe.

However, on Wednesday, Mdlalose (29), who was appearing in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court, said he would retract his confession and plead not guilty.

Mdlalose’s legal representative, Dumisani Mabunda, said his client would plead not guilty as he had been misinformed.

Mabunda said following Mdlalose’s retraction of his confession and intention to plead not guilty, the State would have to complete the preparation of the case docket and provide it to the defence.

Mabunda said that when Mdlalose confessed, he did not have a legal representative.

Mdlalose abandoned his bail application in early February.

The case was postponed to 22 March. DM

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