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Mandela Foundation: ‘Burning of Parliament a profound metaphor for the state of our democracy’

The blaze, which firefighters described as a ’two-day battle’, started in the early hours of Sunday morning. Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

The blaze, which firefighters described as a ’two-day battle’, started in the early hours of Sunday morning. Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 6, 2022

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THE Nelson Mandela Foundation has described the blaze that ravaged Parliament as a sobering start to 2022 and said the fire was a historical moment and a profound metaphor for the state of democracy in South Africa.

The blaze, which firefighters described as a “two-day battle”, started in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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According to the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, the blaze ravaged through the old Parliament precinct, completed in 1884, and housed over 4000 heritage archives dating as far back as the 17th century.

The fire then spread to the newer National Assembly and a third building housing the upper house, the National Council of Provinces.

In a statement, the foundation says it hopes that due processes will be followed to bring those responsible for the fire to book.

“It is imperative that these processes be followed thoroughly with the utmost respect for the rule of law. If they are, it is just possible that the fire can be turned into a symbol of recovery and of resurgence, another testament to the resilience of our democracy which has been challenged in recent years,” they said.

“Such a symbol, rising from the ashes, would mean a renewed appreciation for the role of Parliament and a new commitment to a legislature that protects and advances the rights and interests of people who have been marginalised and oppressed.

“It would recommit us to our responsibility to rebuild our damaged physical and social infrastructure like our national railway system as well as our Chapter 9 institutions, enhance the rule of law, strengthen our tools for social bonding and address many other critical societal issues,” they added.

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Authorities have arrested 49-year-old Zandile Christmas Mafe, who is charged with multiple charges, including housebreaking, arson, possession of an explosive device and destruction of essential infrastructure.

Mafe appeared briefly at the Cape Town magistrate’s court on Tuesday, where his case was postponed to January 11 for further investigation.

On Monday, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said: “No stone must be left unturned in determining the cause of the fire, with the findings of a full investigation being made public so that this terrible incident is prevented in the future.

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“The National Parliament, housed in Cape Town, is not just a series of buildings. It is the home of our democracy, which we must care for and protect,” he added.

Authorities say a preliminary report to determine the cause of the fire will be available on Friday, January 7.

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