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Hawks take over probe into devastating fire at Parliament

Firefighters battled a blaze that broke out at the Parliament precinct on Sunday affecting both the Old Assembly Wing and the National Assembly Wing. Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the fire. Picture; Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

Firefighters battled a blaze that broke out at the Parliament precinct on Sunday affecting both the Old Assembly Wing and the National Assembly Wing. Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the fire. Picture; Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

Published Jan 3, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - The Hawks have taken over the case of the man arrested in connection with a fire that ripped through parts of Parliament on Sunday morning.

Briefing the media, Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille confirmed one person was arrested.

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“I can confirm from (Western Cape SAPS commissioner Thembisile Patekile) the docket is handed over to the Hawks. It is the role of the Hawks to investigate attacks on political institutions,” De Lille said.

She said the suspect was arrested inside Parliament and CCTV cameras showed someone was in the parliamentary building from the early hours of the morning.

“We will have a report (today) on what happened,” De Lille said.

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Police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said a man was taken for questioning.

“I can confirm that we have taken a 50 to 51 year-old man for questioning with regards to the fire at Parliament today,” Naidoo said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday visited the site to assess the damage and was prior briefed by Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Public Works and infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille and State Security Deputy Minister Zizi Kodwa.

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He said investigation was continuing amid reports that the sprinkler system did not work at the national legislature.

“It does seem like the sprinkler system did not work as it was supposed to. We need to go a lot deeper into how this type of event can take place and what measures we need to take going forward,” he said.

De Lille said the report they received was that there was a fire drill before Parliament closed to test whether fire sprinklers were working.

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“Everything was in order. Someone closed one of the valves so there was no water,” she said.

The fire broke out just after 6am and firefighters were dispatched within six minutes to douse the flames in the Old Assembly and then the National Assembly, where part of the ceiling collapsed.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula expressed shock at the blaze.

She said Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address (SONA), normally delivered at the national Assembly, would continue as planned on February 10.

“This, which has happened, should not prevent us from listening to SONA. Ours is to find an alternative venue where the president will address the public from,” she said.

“There will obviously be a meeting with the executive management. There will be a discussion on the form of the sitting whether to continue with a hybrid address or at a different venue,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

De Lille confirmed she was looking for an alternative venue to present to the Speaker.

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis described the fire at parliament a "national tragedy” and said while damage is still being assessed, the City is at the ready to assist.

“Cape Town will make our Council Chamber available to the Speaker for sittings of the National Assembly, as well as the use of the Grand Parade and City Hall for the State of the Nation Address. We want to see Parliament continue its important work, and we will do what we can to help,” Hill-Lewis said.

Safety and security mayco member JP Smith said there was a need to review the fire safety system in the national legislature.

“The fire detection system was delayed,” Smith said.

Cape Times

Related Topics:

Cyril Ramaphosa

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