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Parliament fire destroyed material that cannot be replaced, says heritage agency

A fire broke out in The National Parliament building in Cape Town. A total of 36 firefighters and six firefighting appliances battled the blaze that destroyed large parts of the precinct. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

A fire broke out in The National Parliament building in Cape Town. A total of 36 firefighters and six firefighting appliances battled the blaze that destroyed large parts of the precinct. File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 21, 2022

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Cape Town - The South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) has given its statements to the National Prosecuting Authority and SAPS to determine if they can press more charges against Zandile Mafe for violating the heritage laws after he allegedly set fire to Parliament.

This arises out of the fact that Parliament is a national heritage site and as such is protected by various laws against any damage or destruction.

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Even if authorities wanted to repair or replace certain parts of the structure, they would have to apply for a special permit from the agency.

Sahra also confirmed some of the damaged material would not be replaced, as it was no longer available.

The history of Parliament dates back to the 1600s and then to the 1800s and the 1900s when various upgrades were made over the years.

Sahra’s Ben Mwasinga said Parliament holds significant value.

He said after the fire there was a loss of historical value in the precinct.

“The materials that have been destroyed cannot and will not ever be replaced. What we can do with our best efforts is to try and restore it to a state in which it was before. Where we can’t restore we can consult with members of Parliament and greater members of the public as to what should be replaced there. The structural damage to the buildings is quite extensive, the entire roof of the Old Assembly has been destroyed and the structure of the National Assembly has been damaged. What has been damaged now cannot and will not be replaced as these are historical items and the materials that were used to construct these buildings at that time will not be found in this day and age,” said Mwasinga.

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He said the law would now have to take its course.

The Hawks and the NPA have been working on the case for several months.

The institution has also used Coega Development Corporation to assess the extent of the damage.

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The final report was finalised on Friday after working on it.

The report will determine how much it would cost to repair and rebuild Parliament.

The National Assembly and Old Assembly chambers had experienced extensive damage.

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On whether charges could be pressed for violating the National Heritage Resources Act, since Parliament is a heritage site, Mwasinga said this could be done.

“Section 50 of this Act does make a provision for criminal procedures for anyone who violates this Act. But further to this, Sahra has submitted a statement to SAPS and the NPA as well, detailing violations that have taken place as a result of this arson. We will be advised by the NPA and SAPS if we are required to provide further information,” said Mwasinga.

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Political Bureau

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