Politics

South Africa parliament fire: Collapse fears grow as flames reignite

Firemen are desperately battling flames and smoke in Cape Town (Picture: Getty/AP)

South Africa’s national parliament is on fire again after a devastating blaze flared up once more in Cape Town.

Firefighters are struggling to extinguish the flames more than 24 hours after they were first noticed.

A spokesman for the city’s fire services said: ‘The fire and rescue service confirms that the fire at parliament has flared up.’

Spokesman Jermaine Carelse added that the fire restarted in the roof of the building housing the national assembly at a time when only a dozen firefighters were still at the scene.

Parts of the roof have already collapsed and the latest development will worsen fears about the building’s integrity.

Earlier, the City of Cape Town safety and security official J.P. Smith said the main chamber of the National Assembly had been ‘completely gutted.’

‘The entire Parliament complex is severely damaged, waterlogged and smoke damaged,’ Mr Smith said.

Firefighters had said they were still working on ‘hotspots’ in the National Assembly building more than 24 hours after the fire started, according to Mr Carelse said.

But the fire crews had been scaled back from around 70 firefighters Sunday to 20 by Monday morning.

Other buildings in the complex were also damaged by the fire that started early on Sunday morning and spread from an old Parliament building that now houses offices to the National Assembly building.

Meanwhile, a 49-year-old man has been charged in connection with the blaze.

Police confirmed he has been accused of arson and other offences including theft and he is set to appear in court on Tuesday.

The blaze has devastated the building (Picture: Reuters)

The speaker of the National Assembly said arson, if confirmed, would represent an attack on the country’s democracy.

The building has been at the centre of South African history for more than 130 years, lasting through British colonialism, the apartheid regime and South Africa’s transition to democracy under Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

The arrested man had to be rescued from the fire on Sunday, according to South African media reports.

Parliament was closed for the holidays and no injuries were reported.

Patricia de Lille, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, said that someone had turned off a valve which prevented a fire sprinkler system from functioning.


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She added an investigation into the cause of the fire has been taken over by the Hawks, a South African police unit that deals with serious and high-profile crimes.

The fire caused the roof of the New Wing, housing the lower chamber National Assembly to collapse.

But the roof of the Old Wing, which dates back to 1884 and houses the upper chamber National Council of Provinces (NCOP), also partially collapsed.

‘It is a very abnormal kind of situation,’ said Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaker of the National Assembly.

‘The question that even a young child would ask is: “How is it possible that fire which started in some part of the Old Assembly would find itself to the new chamber?”

‘We don’t know,’ she told a news briefing.

A preliminary report on potential costs and timelines for refurbishment is expected on Friday, the public works and infrastructure minister said.

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