This week marked two years since the fire that engulfed Parliament on the morning of January 2, 2022.
Subsequent reports indicated that the sprinkler system had been tampered with, resulting in the fire that destroyed parts of the Parliament complex in the legislative capital of Cape Town.
More than 70 fighters were dispatched to battle the blaze, which lasted for more than three days. One man identified as Zandile Mafe was subsequently arrested for allegedly causing this devastating fire which has resulted in more than R2 billion to restore the complex to its former glory.
This week, Parliament welcomed the latest developments which suggest that rebuilding of Parliament will kick off in the first part of 2024, right up to the latter parts of 2025. “Today (Tuesday) we are reminded of the unfortunate fire incident that ravaged the National Assembly building, including the National Assembly Chamber, hundreds of offices of members of Parliament and staff, and inflicted extensive damage to parts of the historic old Assembly Chamber.
“The incident inflicted a collective national trauma on South Africans, a memory that will linger for many years. In the face of this crisis, our resilience as a nation and as a crucial arm of the state was profoundly tested. Together with the people of South Africa, we navigated the unimaginable and we advanced and fulfilled our constitutional obligations to the nation,” Parliament said in a statement.
On October 26, 2022, Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana announced in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement that his department has set aside R2bn for the restoration of the damaged parliamentary buildings.
After more than two years in the making, it is now all systems go for the rebuilding and reconstruction process of the Parliament buildings that were engulfed in the blaze. It is reported that the new Parliament will improve on its colonial-inspired design to reflect the country’s freedom from its colonial past.
“The previous Parliament buildings were designed to meet the specific, limited requirements of colonial and apartheid-era governance. However, the new Parliament building is being developed to effectively address the demands of a democratic era,” Parliament said, adding that it took time to raise the funds required to take on the renovations.
Parliament said in the first year since the fire broke out, it initiated a business continuity management framework to minimise disruptions and damage assessments and raise funds, while the second year, the bulk of the work was dedicated to following a blueprint laying the groundwork for the reconstruction.
“Early in 2023, Parliament and the Development Bank of South Africa formed a partnership for the rebuilding project. The agreement encompassed capacity development, technical support, and implementation of infrastructure projects. This involved refurbishing the old Assembly and National Assembly buildings and the link building, clearing rubble for detailed assessments, and remodelling 155 offices in the 90 Plein Street building to accommodate MPs' physical return to the precincts,” it said.
Meanwhile, Zandile Mafe, who is accused of setting the Parliament on fire, was recently declared unfit for trial.
However, a report by the House said that the fire could have been prevented if the Parliamentary Protection Services were on duty at that time.
This resulted in Parliament placing nine of its officials on suspension on charges related to the fire.
The nine suspected officials form part of a group of 28 officials who have been identified in an independent investigation which found that they may have been responsible for security breaches and other lapses that contributed to the costly fire.
Parliament has since suspended nine senior officials over the fire that swept through the building and for administrative irregularities.