'Parliament fire repairs could take up to five years to complete'

The fire damaged the Old Assembly and the National Assembly wings of the buildings of Parliament. Picture: City of Cape Town Report

The fire damaged the Old Assembly and the National Assembly wings of the buildings of Parliament. Picture: City of Cape Town Report

Published Jan 10, 2022


Cape Town - South African National Heritage Resource Agency’s (Sahra) said it could take up to five years to complete repairs to Parliament.

That’s according to Ben Maswinga, the Sahra manager of the build environment unit, whose remarks come after a devastating fire last week gutted both the Old Assembly and the National Assembly.

“Parliament is both a national key point as well as a national heritage site; it’s very early to tell but the estimated figure at this point is over a billion rand.

“It’s going to need a great deal of resources to fix this in terms of expertise, such as material analysis and restoration architects, heritage architects and engineers. It will be a monumental task,” Mwasinga said.

And even if the investigation into the fire is completed, work to repair the precinct will not start immediately, he said.

“In terms of estimating time frame, it could take one year or more of design input from various experts, another year of reworking and finalising the design, then doing the cost analysis. Anything upwards of five years and that would be if everything went very well,” Mwasinga said.

He also added: “The key danger is that all of these resources are of national significance. As heritage resources they are finite, which means that if a building of historical significance is damaged or destroyed it cannot be replaced.”

Department of Public Works and Infrastructure acting director-general Imtiaz Fazel said: “We do not yet know the full extent of the damages caused by the fire. Our engineers and architects only gained access to the fire-damaged areas on Tuesday afternoon.

“This team of multi-disciplinary experts and professionals is under way with an assessment of the damages.”

On Friday, Parliament confirmed the City Hall would be used as an alternative venue for the joint sitting of Parliament to host the Nation Address (Sona).

This year’s Sona is scheduled to take place on February 10.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said preparations are under way and City Hall is conducive to the demands of Sona.

“Since late last year, Parliament has been preparing for Sona by engaging various stakeholders. The City Hall was considered a suitable venue technically in terms of infrastructure and its capacity. It is also a befitting place considering its historical significance,” Mothapo said.

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has said the City will work together with the state to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

“As a government committed to working together for the benefit of all our residents I offered City Hall so that the work of Parliament could continue uninterrupted, and I’m pleased that the Speaker has accepted our offer,” Hill-Lewis said.

Sahra has estimated the costs of fixing the damage at more than a billion rand.

Meanwhile, Zandile Mafe, who has been charged with setting fire to Parliament, will appear in court tomorrow for his bail application.

Mafe’s lawyer, Luvuyo Godla, said his client’s family have accepted the fact that he has been charged and will be in court to support him.

“Some family members will be present on Tuesday when he makes his appearance. They are at peace with his charges; they understand that anyone can be charged for anything but proving it is a different question altogether,” Godla said.

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