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Arrest after blast at health dept HQ

Pretoria - Pandemonium broke out at the Department of Health’s head office after a 64-year-old man set off an explosion at the building’s entrance on Wednesday.

Police officers arrest a man, centre, who set off an incendiary device at the entrance to the Department of Health offices in Pretoria. Photo: Oupa Mokoena. Credit: PRETORIA NEWS

Hundreds of staff were evacuated using the back exit of the building.

Witnesses said the man, who is believed to be mentally unstable, walked casually towards the building in the late evening, carrying a white bucket and a black and white bag which contained torch batteries. It is not known what other substances might have been in the bag.

Tlaisego Nkgwena, a cleaner in the department's building, said she was at the smoking area which is about 20 metres from the entrance when the man approached the door and set the bag on fire. He immediately ran away before it exploded.

Thabo Sehume and Struben streets were cordoned off as about 50 metro police and SAPS members secured the scene. Police spokesman, Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the man was arrested and was facing charges of arson. “At the moment we do not know the motive of the attack, but we are sure we will in due course,” he said.

“I don’t know what else was in the bag, but then he lit it with a match stick and ran away. We chased after him and caught him with the aid of security,” Nkgwena said.

She said this was not the first time that the man had attacked the building. “He dumped faeces at the entrance a few months ago,” she said.

A worker at the department backed Nkgwena’s claim, adding that security needed to be improved. “This man has now attacked the building twice. It shows that security is not as tight as it should be and that our lives are in danger,” he said.

The department’s spokesman, Joe Maila, said no one was injured during the explosion, and that security was able to evacuate everyone before police secured the building.

Maila could not confirm if the same suspect had been involved in a faeces incident earlier on.

“We are happy that nobody was injured. Our security is tight and it is our security details who apprehended the suspect as he attempted to flee from the scene,” he said.

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