Man, 49, arrested in connection with Parliament fire

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  • A fire broke out in Parliament on Sunday, with flames erupting from the roof of the building.
  • Dozens of firefighters are still at the site, battling the blaze.
  • A 49-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the fire.

A man has been arrested in connection with a large fire that severely damaged the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town on Sunday, with President Cyril Ramaphosa calling it a "terrible and devastating event".

Ramaphosa arrived at Parliament to inspect the damage, flanked by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele.

Video footage showed a thick plume of black smoke filling the sky, with huge flames erupting from the roof of the building.

Follow the live update for the latest on the fire

Speaking to journalists outside Parliament, Ramaphosa said the event was particularly devastating as it follows a day after Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's funeral on Saturday.

"To wake up to the devastating news of the burning down of the National Assembly, it's a terrible setback," Ramaphosa said. "But our officials have really acted with great capability and speed."

He thanked the dozens of firefighters battling the blaze.

"The praise must go to the firefighters of the City of Cape Town. They intervened at the right time," he said. 

The president said the building's sprinkler system appeared to not be functioning properly.

Arrest

An investigation into the cause of the fire is underway. 

"The fire started in the old assembly building. I believe someone is being held right now and being questioned. But we have to go a lot deeper into how this type of event can take place and what measures we need going forward," he said. 

Police confirmed a 49-year-old man was taken in for questioning.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo told News24 a man had been taken in for questioning in respect of the fire which broke out in Parliament.

However, shortly afterwards Minister of Public Works, Patricia De Lille, told the media that the man had been arrested and the case had been handed over to the Hawks.

READ | Huge fire brings down roof at Parliament

Firefighters are still trying to contain the blaze, with approximately 70 firefighters on site. 

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said firefighters would start searching all floors to ensure all areas were safe.

"It is concerning that we have seen many of these fires. It means that a review of the fire systems has to be combative," he said.

The man is due to appear in court on Tuesday.


*Editor's Note: In a previous version of the article the suspect's age was given as 51. The Hawks have since indicated his age is 49. The article has been updated.

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