Parliament fire: CCTV cameras functioned, but not monitored
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Cape Town – Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille has revealed that the CCTV cameras in Parliament were not monitored during the fateful day of the fire in the national legislature.
De Lille said the matter would now be the subject of the broader police investigation into the fire that damaged the Old Assembly and National Assembly.
She said this as National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the surveillance cameras were functioning.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the report she received from acting secretary of Parliament Baby Tyawa, was that the parliamentary cameras were all working.
“For the record the cameras of Parliament were all working. Not only has that been confirmed by secretary of Parliament, it has been confirmed by the person responsible for that from the Department of Public works,” she said at a media briefing yesterday.
Mapisa-Nqakula also said the official at the Department of Public Works had assured them at a briefing of the presiding officers that “everything in relation to the cameras was working” even before Tyawa raised the matter.
The suspect, who will appear in the Cape Town magistrate’s court today, was caught on the CCTV cameras, and it was reported that he had been at the precinct since the early hours of the morning.
De Lille said they have confirmed that the CCTV cameras at Parliament were working.
“The footage we looked at comes from the cameras that are working,” she said.
However, the minister said the problem came in that there was no monitoring of the CCTV cameras on that fateful day.
“The monitoring of CCTV cameras in terms of Parliament security and police has been done by the police and that is why police were able to alert the fire department when they arrived.
“And that is also under investigation to see why it was not picked up earlier than we had somebody in the building.
“Certainly, there was a security breach and again it is the Department of Police that will investigate that,” De Lille said.
She said until they get a conclusive report, they would be able to form an opinion as to where some of the things went wrong on that day.
The issue of surveillance cameras has been thrust into the spotlight by Nehawu, which claimed that the parliamentary protection services personnel were not on duty on a fateful day.
The union has claimed that Parliament took a decision not to pay for overtime, weekend work and holidays and was cutting down on personnel.
It argued that had the personnel been on duty the fire could have been detected and extinguished earlier.
But, Mapisa-Nqakula said there was not such a directive which was issued to protection services regards the alleged cost-cutting measures.
She said the firefighters should be commended because they did their best to extinguish the fire and prevent extensive damage.
“That we have this damage of this magnitude is something we can only be assisted by those investigating. They will be able to tell whether there was an inflammable substance.”
Mapisa-Nqakula said it was “totally irresponsible” for the Nehawu leadership to give an impression to South Africans what happened was because management took a decision to cut down on the funding for the security or even cut down on personnel.
She also said it was unfortunate that the union had communicated about the disruption of the State of the Nation Address whereas they had not declared a dispute over the salary negotiations.
“What is strange is that people made the statement before they declared a deadlock at the negotiations chamber. I am just saying it is not a matter we want to go to town about,” she said, adding that they would interact with Nehawu leaders and that a meeting was scheduled for today.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the magnitude of damage caused and the destruction of the Houses of Assembly required that the employer and the employees should sit together and understand that they have a crisis and that they find a solution.
Meanwhile, Mapisa-Nqakula said the filling of the vacancy of the head of parliamentary security services was under consideration.
Zelda Holtzman left the institution about four years ago and her position was never filled.
“By the time we went on recess, it was a matter which we were discussing and finding a way of resolving,” she said.