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DEVELOPING | Firefighters withdraw from Parliament, buildings handed over to Hawks

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07 January 10:11

The City of Cape Town's post-incident report prepared by the City’s Fire Department on the fire that engulfed Parliament has picked up serval concerns when firefighters struggled for two days to contain the blaze. 

According to the report released on Friday, it noted the latching open of fire doors assisted in the spread of the fire, the Sprinkler system did not activate because it was not serviced and valves appeared to have been closed.

Station Commander JJ Williams said in the report: "During my walk around of the affected areas I found that the National Assembly sprinkler valve was not serviced. Service date was in 2017 and this needs to be done every three years and the valve appeared to be closed. 

"If properly serviced, this valve should have been locked with a chain in an open position and a block plan would have been available showing system layout. The Lifts continued to operate despite a “break glass” unit at one lift being activated."

Williams added the roof smoke vents did activate at the National Assembly. Divisional Commander Wayne Visser commented in the report that the emergency staircases were poorly ventilated with minimal natural vents encountered to the outside; no mechanical venting of the staircases was observed.

- Marvin Charles

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

06 January 13:16

Various teams of the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service Department have now completely withdrawn from the parliamentary precinct, Parliament Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said.

Since the firefighters contained the flare-up during the morning of Tuesday, the firefighters had remained on site until yesterday evening, monitoring the situation and combing the inside of the buildings for any potential flare-up.

The firefighters worked over 71 hours with "unspeakable courage and bravery to contain the fire".

Over 300 men and women were deployed, 60 firefighting appliances and two specialised aerial pieces of equipment were used during the three-day battle against the blaze.

The Fire Department has handed the affected buildings to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, to investigate the circumstances around the unfortunate and devastating fire incident that started on Sunday.

Engineers from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure are also on-site to determine if the affected buildings are safe for access by the Hawks.

The investigators will gain access to the buildings once they receive confirmation from the multidisciplinary team of engineers, including structural, electrical, and forensic experts.

Meanwhile, preparations for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to be delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 10 February 2022 are at an advanced stage, Mothapo said.

This afternoon, the Presiding Officers will join the Mayor of the City of Cape Town on inspection of the possible alternative venues, such as the Municipal Chambers, Cape Town International Convention Centre, and the Town Hall.

The inspection follows the offer by the provincial government of the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town for the use of these venues for both the SONA and the Budget speech.

The Presiding Officers will announce the approved venue soon.

06 January 07:37

Parliament fire: ANC backtracks on use of City of Cape Town facilities for SONA

- The ANC has backtracked on its stance on using City of Cape Town property for SONA.

- In an earlier statement, it accused the DA of opportunism and said other avenues must be explored.

- In a later statement, it said "all available public buildings must be utilised".

READ MORE

06 January 06:49

Parliament fire: Cape Town's homeless thrust into spotlight again after Zandile Mafe arrest

- Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said police and law enforcement agencies must decide if Zandile Mafe is, in fact, the right person arrested.

- This sparked outrage among lobby groups and again thrust the issue of homeless people in Cape Town in the spotlight. 

- On Wednesday, the fire that devastated Parliament was finally contained after a two-day battle.

READ MORE

06 January 06:47

EXCLUSIVE | 'Useless' Parliament fire doors were kept open by 'cheap latches', report finds

- The fire doors installed at Parliament had latches that prevented them from closing during the fire on Sunday.

- Senior fire safety staff completed a report after looking into the cause of the fire that broke out on Sunday morning.

- The findings have been handed over to Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

READ MORE

05 January 14:12

Parliament fire is finally under control

Parliament has confirmed the fire on the roof of the National Assembly is finally under control. The fire flared up on Monday afternoon. A devastating fire ripped through Parliament on Sunday.

Parliament said in a statement:


It is with a great sense of relief that Parliament confirms the containment of the fire flare up at the roof of the National Assembly (NA) on Monday, and there has not been any further fire incident.

The last 24 hours had been critical, with firefighters closely monitoring and combing through the scene.

After the firefighters contained the fire at midnight yesterday, they remained on site, although at reduced capacity for monitoring the situation, to conduct a thorough assessment and to establish the extent of the damage caused.

Since Sunday, there have been 300 firefighters working shifts and over 60 fire engine vehicles. One fire engine remains at the scene currently, with five crew members working throughout all the floors, ensuring no flare-ups.

The firefighters will assess later this afternoon for possible total withdrawal from the site today and see if the building is safe to be handed over to the South African Police Services.

The Presiding Officers of Parliament, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Mr Amos Masondo applauds the lionhearted firefighters. The firefighters fought to bring the fire at the Parliamentary precinct under control.

The extent of the damage in the NA is severe. The Presiding Officers confirm that efforts to save the Mace were successful yesterday after two days of the fire. It has been retrieved from its safe storage without any damage.

The Mace is an important symbol that signifies the authority and sitting of the NA. It is carried into the Chamber by the Serjeant-at-Arms and announces the arrival of the Speaker of the NA.

It signifies that the House is formally in session and that its proceedings are official. The Mace was designed to reflect the history, traditions, and diverse cultures and languages of South Africa. The design also celebrates its natural beauty, plant and animal life, and rich mineral resources.

The NA Speaker remains grateful for saving the Mace as its recreation could be difficult.

The Museum is also unharmed from the ravaging fire including artworks and heritage objects and the Keiskamma tapestry on the ground floor of the Old Assembly Building.

The Keiskamma Tapestry tells the South African story – in beadwork, skins and embroidery – from the perspective of ordinary people. It is 112 metres long and 70 metres high. Women from the Keiskamma Art Project, a community initiative and non-profit organisation in Hamburg, on the banks of the Keiskamma River in the Ngqushwa region of the Eastern Cape, made this artwork.

It is a powerful symbol of our people's Parliament. It demonstrates our support for women's empowerment and support for local initiatives. The former Speaker of the NA, Ms Baleka Mbete unveiled the tapestry in 2006 on International Women's Day, 8 March.

As part of the internal stakeholder meetings yesterday, the Presiding Officers briefed the leaders of political parties, the Chief Whips Forum and Nehawu leadership.

The Presiding Officers reassured everyone that no stone would be left unturned in getting to the bottom of how the incident happened. They said Parliament would conduct its internal investigation on any lapses that contributed to the incident.

"We don't want to make any speculations about what may have led to this incident, but we continue to be very concerned that the institution of Parliament and its symbols could be destroyed in this manner. So, we will demand full accountability and if so found, for those responsible to be punished", said the Presiding Officers.

They further asked all to work together despite the incident and find ways to ensure that Parliament's work continues and will not allow the disaster to derail the institution's important work.

Furthermore, they confirmed that the State of the Nation Address, Budget Speech, and other programmes would proceed as planned.

Parliament will share further details about where and how these events will occur.

05 January 12:19

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has formed part of a special ceremony organised by the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, to honour firefighters who won a "courageous and brave battle" to contain the fire at the precincts of Parliament over the last three days.

The event is being hosted at the Roeland Fire Station.

<p>The Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has formed part of a special ceremony organised by the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, to honour firefighters who won a "courageous and brave battle" to contain the fire at the precincts of Parliament over the last three days.</p><p>The event is being hosted at the Roeland Fire Station.</p>

05 January 10:35

Parliament fire | Zandile Mafe a scapegoat, real perpetrator still out there – suspect’s family

The family of Zandile Mafe, the man accused of starting the fire at parliament, are distraught at his arrest.

Read

05 January 07:56

Cape Town firefighters have been monitoring Parliament overnight, but there have been no flare-ups, said City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse. An assessment of Parliament will be made on Wednesday morning, to establish if the building can be handed over to the authorities after fires broke out in the Old and New Assembly on Sunday and Monday. 

– Nicole McCain

05 January 06:37

Parliament fire: 'How does a poor man have access to explosives?' - accused's lawyer

- Parliament's CCTV cameras were rolling when an intruder allegedly started a fire, but no one was watching.

- Zandile Mafe appeared in court on charges relating to the incident.

- The department said all systems in Parliament – including the sprinklers - were in working order.

READ MORE

05 January 06:18

Parliament fire puts a strain on resources, as officials prepare for fire season

- Large urban fires can drain firefighting resources which are needed during the fire season in the Western Cape.

- The Western Cape can have up to 1 200 wildfires during fire season, which runs from December to April.

- However, it's also a time when fires in informal settlements are likely to increase.

READ MORE

04 January 21:20

'We just want some compassion': Firefighters say they were not given food while battling Parly blaze

Several firefighters, who were part of a large crew dispatched to douse the flames that engulfed Parliament, claim they were not given food while on duty.  

They worked on Sunday morning when the fire first broke out and Monday evening when the flames reignited.

Speaking to News24, the firefighters, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said whenever there was a massive fire, they were first on the scene.

READ MORE

04 January 17:18

The meeting closes, with not much light shed on what happened in the early hours of Sunday.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 17:04

"Yes, it is correct, there was no one to monitor the CCTV cameras from 02:00 in the morning when this person entered the building until 06:00 when the police arrived," Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille tells the committee.

"And for that, Parliament will have to answer and the secretary of Parliament. I cannot unfortunately, answer that."

- Jan Gerber

04 January 16:41

Acting Secretary to Parliament, Baby Tyawa, is not providing any information to the committee at the moment. She asked for seven days to compile a report on the issues that members have raised.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 15:49

MPs appear sceptical about Public Works' assertion that all systems were in place. Several MPs also wanted to know whether security services personnel were on duty.

04 January 15:22

DA deputy chief whip Siviwe Gwarube and IFP chief whip Narend Singh are concerned that acting secretary of Parliament Baby Tyawa didn't have anything to say. She was given an opportunity to address the meeting earlier, but declined.

Gwarube said the committee is getting a "myopic" view of the fire if it only hears from Public Works.

04 January 15:15

DA MP Samantha Graham wants to know how it is possible that someone could be on the Parliamentary precinct for four hours without detection.

04 January 15:06

Patricia de Lille says the Hawks have downloaded the CCTV footage, but it is not available to the committee at this moment.

"Inside Parliament it is pitch, pitch dark," says De Lille. She says nobody is allowed to take pictures at the moment.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 15:03

"Our systems were working as intended, and were tested late in December," says Public Works' acting DG Imtiaz Fazel.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 14:49

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure says Parliament's sprinkler system was "fully functional" by October 2021.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 14:36

De Lille says they have appointed a fire expert to work with Cape Town's forensic team to determine where the fire have started.

She says they are now waiting for Cape Town to hand over the building to the police and her team. De Lille says she was on the scene with state security deputy minister Zizi Kodwa since Sunday. She briefed Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula on Monday.

De Lille said what stood out amid the doom and gloom was the outpouring of help from the city and province. She also lauded the City of Cape Town firefighters.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 14:33

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille said they have two options for alternative accommodation – the Cape Town International Convention Centre has been offered and Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis offered the City Hall and the council chamber. It is now up to the Speaker to determine what the needs are.

– Jan Gerber

04 January 14:30

Masondo says the "loss is beyond any measure". He reiterated the presiding officers' appeal for calm and to resist speculation. He says they'll ensure the business of Parliament will not be impacted and there are discussions underway.

04 January 14:25

Masondo says NCOP chamber and offices, parliament library, museum, artworks and ground floor of old assembly building has been saved.

04 January 14:20

NCOP chairperson Amos Masondo tells the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament says the fire is a "really a matter that is uppermost in many people's minds".

He says Parliament plays an important role in the lives of all the people of the country. MPs are elected to represent the people of the country and act as the voice of the people. He says Parliament is accountable to the people. He mentions the constitutional obligations of both houses of Parliament.

– Jan Gerber

04 January 14:04

A meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on the Financial Management of Parliament on the preliminary findings on the fire damage at Parliament is about to start. The DA has indicated earlier today that it will insist on an independent forensic investigation into the fire at this meeting.

It is also expected that members will raise issues regarding security at the precinct at the meeting.

– Jan Gerber

04 January 13:58

The joint committee on the financial mismanagement of Parliament is due to provide findings on the fire at the Parliament buildings at 14:00.

04 January 13:22

WATCH | State Capture report should be tabled at the National Assembly as soon as possible - DA

DA leader John Steenhuisen address media outside Parliament on Tuesday after the fire that had been raging since Sunday was brought under control. He noted that the State Capture Commission's report will be released later today and said the report must be tabled at the National Assembly as soon as possible.

04 January 12:52

WATCH | Man accused of starting fire that ravaged Parliament appears in dock

A 49-year old man appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Tuesday in connection with the massive fire that broke out at Parliament over the weekend. Zandile Christmas Mafe faces charges of housebreaking, theft and arson, as well as charges under the National Key Points Act, with additional charges expected to be added. When Mafe arrived at the dock, he removed his mask and did a 360 turn as cameras flashed. The matter has been postponed.

04 January 11:25

The case against Zandile Christmas Mafe, the man accused of starting the massive fire at Parliament on Sunday, has been postponed. Mafe was arrested by members of the Protection and Security Services, a division of the police service responsible for security at Parliament when they noticed the building was on fire.

When Mafe arrived at the dock, he removed his mask and did a 360 turn as cameras flashed. Mafe faces several charges, among them charges under the explosives act, theft, arson and housebreaking.

The State requested that the matter be postponed to verify the information of Mafe for his bail application. They also wanted to wait for the damages in Parliament to be assessed.

Mafe is being represented by Private attorney Luvuyo Godla, and he argued that Mafe should be released on bail because he poses no flight risk. They were disputing that the "poor person" furnished all details to authorities, and they have not gone to establish his address.

"My client denies these charges, and that is why he is pleading not guilty," said Godla outside the court.

Court has granted a 7-day remand of the matter for the State to collect bail information and inspection at the crime scene after it is declared safe. The case is postponed to 11 January.

Mafe will remain in custody.

- Marvin Charles

04 January 11:15

DA spokesperson on Public Works Samantha Graham says Public Works had knowledge that the systems were deficient.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 11:15

"Democracy has to start working today," says Mazzone. She says the DA's first priority is to ensure Parliament's work continues.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 11:14

Mazzone says at a meeting scheduled for 14:00, the DA will insist on an independent forensic investigation. She says the fire looks like something "sinister".

- Jan Gerber

04 January 11:14

"We need to get to the bottom of why this fire started," says Steenhuisen.

"We need to ensure that the work of state and Parliament continues."

- Jan Gerber

04 January 11:13

Steenhuisen notes that the Zondo Commission's report will be released later today. He says the report must be tabled at the National Assembly as soon as possible.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 11:12

 The DA's Natasha Mazzone, John Steenhuisen, Siviwe Gwarube and Samantha Graham briefing the media outside Parliament. Steenhuisen thanks the firefighters. He says if this was an assault on democracy, it is absolutely important that Parliament's work continues.

- Jan Gerber

04 January 11:08

Zandile Mafe, makes an appearance in court. The 49-year-old faces charges under the explosives act, theft, arson and housebreaking.

(Marvin Charles, News24)

<p><em>Zandile Mafe, makes an appearance in court. The 49-year-old faces charges under the explosives act, theft, arson and housebreaking.</em></p><p><em>(Marvin Charles, News24)</em></p>

04 January 11:04

(Jan Gerber, News24)
<em>(Jan Gerber, News24)</em>

04 January 11:02

(Jan Gerber, News24)
<em>(Jan Gerber, News24)</em>

04 January 10:54

BREAKING: The court has granted a 7-day remand of matter for the State to collect bail information and inspection at the crime scene after it is declared safe to do so. The matter has been postponed to 11 January. The accused will remain in custody.

- Marvin Charles.

04 January 10:52

04 January 10:00

A 49-year old man is expected to appear in Cape Town Magistrate's Court in connection with the massive fire that broke out on Sunday at Parliament. The suspect faces charges of housebreaking, theft and arson, as well as charges under the National Key Points Act, wiith additional charges expected to be added.

It's understood the suspect was allegedly spotted by members of the Protection and Security Services, a division of the police service responsible for security at Parliament when they noticed the building was on fire.

The matter has been referred to the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State team for further investigation. A large media contingent has arrived at the magistrate's court on Tuesday morning. Advocate Luvuyo Godla will be representing the accused.

- Marvin Charles

04 January 08:13

Parliament fire: Speaker denies claims she dropped the ball despite security concerns

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has denied claims she dropped the ball despite a number of security concerns raised about the parliamentary precinct. 

READ

04 January 08:07

Firefighters contain Parliament fire, but still looking for hotspots

Firefighters struggled for several hours to douse flames on the roof of Parliament after another fire broke out on Monday evening. Around 30 firefighters battled to extinguish the blaze. The mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said: "The fifth and fifth floors of the new wing, above the National Assembly, are completely gutted."

READ

04 January 06:58

Parliament fire: CCTV was working, but no one was watching. Where were the police?

- Preliminary assessments by parliamentary presiding officers and the department of public works reveal a lapse in SAPS monitoring of parliamentary CCTV footage.

- The 49-year-old suspect was caught on camera as early as 2am yet there were no alarms raised, said Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille. 

- Despite the blaze, the SONA and the budget speech are set to go ahead, with the Cape Town city hall being the possible venue. 

FIND OUT MORE

04 January 06:57

Parliament fire: Speaker denies claims she dropped the ball despite security concerns

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has denied claims she dropped the ball despite a number of security concerns raised about the parliamentary precinct. 

Mapisa-Nqakula was grilled by journalists over lacklustre security over the last few months and the dwindling number of police personnel at the precinct. "Parliament is a national key point. And I will not take responsibility for anything that you are suggesting, which is that there may be charges of treason for me as Speaker because Parliament burnt down," she said. 

READ MORE

04 January 06:56

'What a horrible start to the new year' - Capetonians react to Parliament fire

- News24 spoke to the public about their thoughts on the fire at Parliament.

- A group of 50 tourists from KZN were scheduled for a tour inside the Parliament on Monday.

- A 49-year old man has since been arrested in connection with the fire.  

READ MORE
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