Tuesday, 04 January 2022

Cape Town: Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo has confirmed this morning that the fire that flared up on Monday afternoon has now been contained.

On Monday afternoon, the Presiding Officers of Parliament noted with distress yet another flare up of flames on the roof of the National Assembly Building in Cape Town.

The almost two-day brave and courageous battle by firefighters against the flames that gutted various buildings of Parliament suffered a set-back when flames suddenly flared up from the roof of the Building on Monday afternoon.

Firefighters at the scene were reinforced following the sudden re-emergence of the raging fire. There were six firefighting appliances and a hydraulic platform, with 34 firefighters actively fighting the flames at the scene on Monday.

The resurgence of the fire follows earlier information from firefighters regarding the risky high temperature levels at the gutted buildings.

Mothapo said on Twitter this morning that there was a bit of positive news this morning. “… the fire flare up that occurred yesterday afternoon has now been contained. The roof where the flare up occurred and the third to fifth floors were destroyed. Twenty crew members remain on site to monitor situation and assess parts of the building.”

He said significant progress has been made by firefighters in the battle against the  flare up at the roof of National Assembly Building.

He said by midnight the fire had been drastically reduced. However, he said further damages were caused at several floors of the building.

The multi-agency and multi-pronged team of engineers, which arrived at Parliament on Monday was scheduled to begin with its investigative work.

The Presiding Officers continue to be encouraged by the resilience, courage and bravery of the firefighters in their battle to bring the fire under complete control.

Probe into Parliamentary precinct fire

No stone will be left unturned in determining the cause of a fire at Parliament.

“The multi-pronged investigations are underway and will be in full swing once the entire building has been declared safe and handed over to the investigation team. We wish to assure all the people of SA that will leave no stone unturned to enable appropriate action to be taken,” National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson Amos Masondo.

This as the fire destroyed parts of the Parliamentary building. In a statement on Sunday, Parliament said the fire affected both the Old Assembly Wing and the National Assembly Wing of the buildings of Parliament, which house the chambers of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

At a media briefing of Parliament’s Presiding Officers on Monday, Masondo said they are saddened and pained by the incident which has caused damage to the national keypoint and legislative seat of the country.

”We can confirm that one of the biggest losses that the people of South Africa have suffered in the fire is the complete burning down of the National Assembly Chamber,” said Masondo, adding that 2000 pieces of legislation have been passed in the house since the dawn of democracy.

He added that additions were made to the parliamentary building in 2008 with new offices being built for the President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of parliament. However, the additions were not affected by the fire.

“We appreciate the fact that some important sections were saved including the NCOP chamber and offices [including the] parliamentary library [among others],” he said.

Service delivery

He also expressed gratitude for the freighting and rescue efforts adding that Parliament will demonstrate resilience to deliver on its mandate of law making, executive oversight and public participation.

“We wish to assure you that the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Budget Speech and other programmes will proceed as planned.”

This as the fire came at a critical time when preparations for hosting the 2022 State of the Nation Address and Budget speech were at an advanced stage.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had requested the Speaker to convene a Joint Sitting of Parliament for the State of the Nation Address on 10 February 2022.

Speculation

In addition, Masondo noted speculative reports with regards to the cause of the incident including those circulating on the social media space.

He added that the precinct of Parliament will continue to be guarded by the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Assessing the damage

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said the department has brought on board a team engineers including electrical and mechanical engineers.

“For today, they couldn’t get access to fire scene, the temperature inside the building is still plus minus a 100 degrees Celsius down from what it was yesterday at over 400 degrees. What they’ve done in the meantime is to use a drone that they are putting inside the building to assess the structure of the building until temperatures can cool down.”

Preliminary report and assistance

The engineers will focus on repairs that need to be done, on the cost of repairs and timeframes of the repairs.  The department has also brought in a fire expert who will determine exactly where the fire started together with a fire forensic team.

“Their work also started today. We can expect a preliminary report by Friday morning.”

The report will be shared with National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the presiding officers.

“We will then decide together what to do and once we’ve seen the full extent of the costs and what needs to be repaired,” said the Minister.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the presiding officers had received offers of assistance from the Cape Town Convention Centre where the work of Palriament can carry on at their facilities.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has also offered the use of the City Hall.