Deadly fire 'a wake-up call': South African president


South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged authorities to enforce regulations preventing city residents from unlawfully occupying apartment blocks after scores died in a fire in an illegally occupied building in Johannesburg.

The fire, which killed at least 74 people, has highlighted a housing crisis in a city that is one of the world's most unequal and where poverty and unemployment are widespread.

"Local government has to enforce the laws," Ramaphosa said at a governing African National Congress party event.

"This has given us a wake-up call, and I have said that our cities and municipalities must now pay attention to how people live.

"We do encourage people to live in the inner city ... but we need to do it in accordance with our laws."

The apartment block is owned by municipal authorities, but officials said it was "invaded and hijacked" by unknown groups.

Government officials have said some of those who died might have been renting from, or were being extorted by, criminal gangs in the so-called "hijacked buildings" syndicates.

Municipal officials have said efforts to evict residents in illegally occupied buildings are often hamstrung by court orders stopping the evictions.

Ramaphosa said he had asked government ministers to look into ways to enforce laws without violating people's rights.

The gutted building is linked to apartheid-era South Africa, as it was where Black South Africans collected their "dompas" or passbook - documents that would enable them to work in white-owned areas of the city.

Ramaphosa said he collected his passbook at the building about 50 years ago when he worked in the city.