Suspect arrested in connection with Parliament fire

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A 51-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the devastating fire at Parliament on Sunday, January 2. Photo: GCIS
A 51-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the devastating fire at Parliament on Sunday, January 2. Photo: GCIS


A 49-year-old suspect was nabbed in connection with the fire at Parliament on Sunday.

The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille confirmed the arrest late on Sunday afternoon.

"According to the report from the police, he was arrested inside Parliament."

She addressed the media alongside Parliament's deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli. The pair urged South Africans to allow law enforcement time to investigate.

The man is expected in court on Tuesday.

De Lille explained that a fire drill was conducted before Parliament went on recess "and everything was in order".

However, the minister said: "What was discovered this morning is that somebody has closed one of the valves and so then there was no water to trigger that automatic sprinkler system coming on."

CCTV footage revealed that somebody was in the building from the early hours of Sunday morning.

De Lille confirmed that the police docket was handed over to the Hawks for further investigation, explaining:

It is the role of the Hawks to investigate any attack on political institutions.

Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa praised firefighters and government officials for acting speedily.

He said: "We should be grateful that the National Assembly has not been razed to the floor. Our officials have really acted with great capability and speed."

Firefighters are battling to contain the blaze at Parliament in Cape Town.

The fire broke out on Sunday morning.

Authorities were alerted to the blaze at 5:03am which is believed to have started in the Old Assembly building. A fire broke out in the same building in March 2021.

The City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, told City Press that the fire has spread to the National Assembly.

"The roof has caught alight and the National Assembly is on fire too."

He said that internal security, such as safety doors, are presenting an impediment in firefighting efforts.

“These buildings are old. There has been a suggestion that the fire detection equipment took 30 minutes to register the fire. We could have been there earlier had the fire detection equipment been working. We are investigating that possibility,” he said.

The City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member f
The City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith. Photo: Darren Stewart

Smith said that according to one of the fire officers who were first to arrive on the scene: “Their determination was that the fire started in one of the offices in the Old Assembly and then spread to the gymnasium.”

Jermaine Carelse, the spokesperson for the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services, told News24: “The bitumen on the roof is even melting, an indication of the intense heat. There have been reports of some walls showing cracks which could indicate a collapse.”

Thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the National Assembly building.

De Lille told the media that the fire was being brought under control.

Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patric
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille. Photo: Darren Stewart

She stressed: “It’s not the National Assembly that’s on fire. What’s coming up there is an extractor pulling all the smoke out of the building.

“The National Assembly is still safe.”

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

The speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and De Lille, briefed the media on Sunday morning.

This is a developing story and will be updated.


Laila Majiet 

Digital Editor

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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