Cape Town - Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille says the Coega Development Corporation has completed the bulk of the preliminary assessment and report on the fire damage to parliamentary buildings in January.
Last week, De Lille announced that Coega was appointed to conduct an independent assessment of the fire damage at Parliament.
She said at the time National Treasury assisted the department to expedite the process to procure the independent specialist engineering team.
This was after the department’s engineering services’ recommendation that specialised structural engineering assessment work be undertaken in order for the buildings to be made safe for access.
Speaking at the post-State of the Nation Address (Sona) media briefing on Tuesday, De Lille said the basement floors of the New Assembly building were flooded and more inspection work needed to be done in this area.
“The assessment confirmed that the fire in the National Assembly building caused significant damage to the central structural elements from the second floor up to the sixth floor, but the structural integrity is such that the structure is not vulnerable to collapse.”
She also said the Coega final structural assessment report has designated three zones within the new National Assembly building.
“They are designated as Red, Amber and Green Zones. The colours designate areas within the buildings and their status with respect to SAPS access for their imminent investigations.”
De Lille said the Green Zones represented areas which were fairly lightly damaged structurally and which may be accessed almost immediately by properly inducted SAPS teams following defined safety protocols.
The Amber Zones were badly damaged zones which may be accessed almost immediately by properly inducted SAPS teams following defined safety protocols, provided they are accompanied by a member of the Coega structural team.
Red Zones are severely damaged “no-go” zones which may not be accessed by SAPS teams.
The minister said should the investigation trail render access to specific areas within the “no-go” zones to be very desirable, then the structural engineers will advise on special temporary access structures to be constructed, “Where possible, to allow the investigators access, with due regard to safety, without applying loads to the severely compromised parts of the structure.”
She said the Coega structural engineers have recommended certain short- to intermediate-term safety measures be put in place to safeguard personnel and certain remaining portions of the structure.
“These measures are recommended to be put in place after the conclusion of the SAPS investigation.
De Lille also said the Coega team was on track to commence with the second phase comprising of the detail assessment to determine the extent of damage for full restoration of the building including providing a cost and time estimate for such works.
“The latter will commence after the forensic investigations and should take three weeks to conclude,” she said, adding that Coega’s detailed assessment report would be communicated to the media and public as soon as it has been finalised.
In another meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) De Lille told MPs of progress on the work done.
She said Zandile Mafe was in court and has been charged with arson and terrorism in connection with the fire.
“What we can see so far are allegations being tested in an open court of law and the charges being arson.
“The department was instructed to hand over all the evidence (to the Hawks), which includes footage taken by drones after the fire. All information is now subject to a court case and therefore we are not allowed to comment on that,” De Lille said.
De Lille said a specialist independent team had been appointed on February 11 to assess the actual extent of the damage, course of damage, cost and how long it would take to repair.
She added that she is expecting a report back from the team soon.
On the controversial Beitbridge border post fence, the department’s acting director-general Imtiaz Fazel said a meeting with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) is set to commence soon. “We made a referral to ECSA to investigate the professional misconduct on the part of the two companies indicated in the Beitbridge report. They have requested a meeting with the department which we hope to have in the next few days,” he said.