Fire destroys three IFP offices

2014-08-22 00:00

A FORENSIC expert from Pretoria will lead investigations into the cause of a fire at the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature offices in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

Thick smoke resulting from the fire in three offices inside the legislature premises covered parts of the CBD yesterday morning.

According to Msunduzi fire service investigator Rodney Trenam, they received a call at about 7 am from the legislature’s safety officer.

Three fire engines were quickly dispatched to extinguish the fire.

“The fire destroyed three offices. The office on the first floor fell into a ground floor office as it had a wooden floor. Thick smoke in the offices led to one of our firefighters being sent to hospital for smoke inhalation. He was treated and discharged,” said Trenam.

IFP caucus leader Blessed Gwala said they were surprised by the news that their offices were engulfed by fire.

“I almost fainted when I received the call that our offices were on fire. I did not know what to do as I am 400 km away.

“I was told that there was huge damage in three offices belonging to party members and mine was filled with smoke,” said Gwala.

He added that they wanted to know if the fire was the result of an electrical fault or foul play.

The three offices belong to former premier Lionel Mtshali and fellow MPLs Steven Moodley and ­Nhlanhla Msimang.

The fire at one of Pietermaritzburg’s historic buildings attracted attention during the morning rush hour with members of the public curiously standing on Chancery Lane and watching the firefighters at work.

A government official driving into the city on the R33 Greytown Road said he noticed the thick smoke but thought that the Natalia building was on fire.

Staff at the IFP offices were ordered not to report for work following the fire.

A police officer at the scene took issue with The Witness reporter taking pictures of the fire and threatened to charge him with trespassing.

“You are trespassing and you are not allowed to be taking pictures here,” said the officer.

He then threatened to delete the reporter’s pictures and called the head of security.

Legislature security manager Desmond Makhathini asked a staff member to walk the reporter off the premises.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said a case of malicious damage to property was opened for investigation.

“The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage,” he said.

According to the KZN Legislature’s website, the foundation stone of the new legislative building was laid on June 21, 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

“The building was completed two years later. On 25 April, 1889. The Governor of Natal, Sir Arthur Havelock, opened the first legislative council session in the new building.”

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