A burning revelation

2014-06-26 00:00

MUNICIPAL staff are thought to be ­behind an attempt to burn down Pietermaritzburg’s historic city hall at midday last Friday.

Councillors listened to the revelation in shock during a full council meeting yesterday.

Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi reported to the sitting that the ­attempted arson was discovered at about 12.15 pm when members of the South ­African Municipal Workers’ Union were holding a meeting in the city hall.

Nkosi said the Fire Department was called out after it was reported that there was smoke inside the city hall. Two engines rushed to the scene and the source of the smoke was traced to a candle.

Nkosi said the candle was “maliciously left behind a cardboard box with the intention of igniting the box and setting the city hall alight”. He added that the candle and box were placed inside a nook in the men’s toilet on the ground floor.

Nkosi said a case of arson had been opened and an investigation was under way.

He added that the municipal management was now reviewing the policy for usage of the city hall and that security would be beefed up. Proposals for extra security had already been presented to the heritage council AMAFA.

Councillor Thabo Madonda described the incident as anarchy. He said the municipal management “must bite”.

“I believe these people could be our [staff] members,” he said.

Madonda gave the municipal manager the council’s assurance that he had their full support in dealing decisively with the matter.

City hall insiders believe it is possible that municipal staff could be implicated in the incident.

The incident happened during a meeting where SAMWU was apparently introducing its newly elected local leadership to its members. It is alleged that those against the new leadership may have wanted to sabotage the meeting with the attempted fire.

A source, who did not want to be named, said, “I don’t think the intention was to burn down the city hall, but rather to create panic to stop the meeting. It is frightening; anything could have ­happened.”

• The Pietermaritzburg City Hall is a national monument that is described as the largest brick building in the Southern Hemisphere. Built in 1893, it was ravaged by fire in 1895 and rebuilt six years later.

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