Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, responding to the deadly Johannesburg fire that has claimed more than 70 lives, said the government was not responsible for providing "illegal immigrants" with housing.
However, authorities attending to the fire have not confirmed that the building's residents were undocumented immigrants.
On Thursday, Ntshavheni said the fact that the building that caught fire in the Johannesburg CBD was allegedly hijacked should not take away from the rising death toll.
She was speaking during a post-Cabinet meeting media briefing in Pretoria, reacting to the blaze that began in the early hours of Thursday.
By 11:00, more than 70 people had been declared dead.
But the minister denied that the fire was an indication of a housing problem, asserting: "The majority of the people who stay or reside in hijacked buildings are not South African and they are not in this country legally."
"The government cannot provide housing to illegal immigrants."
She, however, stressed that "the fact that it was a hijacked building does not change much; lives have been lost".
"But we are aware that, in hijacked buildings, there will not be a supply of electricity and water. But we cannot want to speculate on the causes of that fire."
Her comments were echoed by Johannesburg council speaker Colleen Makhubele, who blamed civic organisations for hindering the City from dealing with hijacked buildings.
"It [handling hijacked properties] needs decisive action and there will be casualties, but let there be no death," Makhubele said.
"But if we, then, succumb to the pressure [of non-governmental organisations] because we are taken to court – there are court orders, we can't move, etcetera – then something like this happens."
According to Newzroom Africa, she was referring to City of Johannesburg Transport MMC Kenny Kunene receiving backlash for his attempt to evict people from illegally occupied and unsafe structures.
On whether there was a national strategy for hijacked buildings, Ntshavheni said: "Buildings in cities are the responsibility of the metropolitan governments or local municipalities, and the provinces they reside in."
But she explained that Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi was working with cities, municipalities and provincial governments "to provide housing for all South Africans".
"What we can do as national government is provide support through the Department of Human Settlements and the Department of [Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs] and, in this case, the Department of Home Affairs, which will deal with illegal immigration in the country … to support the efforts of the City to deal with hijacked buildings."