African Transformation Leader Vuyo Zungula says Police Minister Bheki Cele should take full responsibility for the fire that broke out in Parliament if it turns out that the suspect is used as a scapegoat.

The 49-year-old Zandile Christmas Mafe has been arrested by the Hawks for allegedly starting the fire.

He already appeared in the Magistrates’ Court in Cape Town last week.

Mafe is expected back in court on Tuesday for his bail application.

Zungula says a thorough investigation into the fire is needed.

He says this includes how a suspect can allegedly break into a national key point without being detected by the police.

“Therefore, it is our view that this person that has been allegedly arrested – we think that there needs to be thorough investigations to be done to make sure that firstly if indeed he committed the act, then he must face the full might of the law. However, if he is being used as a scapegoat because the police don’t want to expose their incompetence, the minister responsible must take full responsibility for what transpired and not use a poor black man as a scapegoat for the incompetence of our departments.”

In the video below, Mafe’s family has expressed shock over allegations that he torched Parliament:

Incompetence

Zungula says the fire outbreak is a clear display of incompetence on the part of some government departments.

On Friday, the City of Cape Town released the fire Department’s report into the fire.

The report makes some observations that certain fire safety appliances were dysfunctional.

Zungula says this is concerning.

“The fire in Parliament has shown how incompetent some of the Departments in our country are, because if the Department of Public Works has not properly maintained Parliament which Houses the legislative arm of our state to an extent whereby the last service to the gas suppression system, the fire sprinklers were last done in 2017, clearly show we have an incompetent government.

A week later 

Today marks one week since a fire broke out in Parliament.

It started in the Old Assembly building and later spread to the new National Assembly wing.

The fire has led to the total destruction of the National Assembly Building. Both Old and New Assembly buildings have been declared unsafe and cordoned off.

This has now led to Parliament scrambling for accommodation to continue with it parliamentary work.

In the video below,  Minister De Lille elaborates:

It will be for the first time in the history of democratic South Africa when the State of the Nation Address (SONA) will not be delivered from the Chamber which has totally collapsed.

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) will now be hosted in the Cape Town City Hall.

The announcement was made on Friday by National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Amos Masondo.

Parliament says it’s also considered the Joint Rules of Parliament which guides Joint Sittings of Parliament.

Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo says: “We have ensured that this decision to host the SONA outside the Chamber of the NA is taken in compliance with the Joint Rules of Parliament that determine where a Joint Sitting may be held. The President calls this Joint Sitting of the NA (National Assembly) and the NCOP (National Council of Provinces) annually to deliver SONA in terms of Section 42(5) of the Constitution, read with Joint Rule 7 of the Joint Rules of Parliament. Since it is a Joint Sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, the Speaker of the NA and the Chairperson of the NCOP host the event, which is attended by the three arms of the state. The Joint Rules also prescribe, amongst others, the venue for the Joint Sitting of Parliament.”

“Joint Rule 8 states that joint sittings are held in the Chamber of the Assembly. The Rules also adequately provide for the procedures for the sitting and the conduct of Members of Parliament. Rule 2 of the Joint Rules provide for Unforeseen Matters.  In terms of Rule 2(1), the Speaker and the Chairperson, acting jointly, may give a ruling or make a rule in respect of any matter for which the Joint Rules do not provide”, added Mothapo in the statement.

The City Hall and the Cape Town International Convention Centre are some of the venues that where offered to Parliament by Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, to utilise.

In the video below, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula says the fire will not stop the SONA: 

COPE unhappy with SONA venue

COPE is not happy about hosting SONA at the City Hall.

Spokesperson Dennis Bloem says the party wanted SONA to be done virtually.

“COPE is very disappointed in the decision by Parliament’s management to use Cape Town City Hall to address Parliament and the nation on the state of the nation. We can’t understand what the insistence of the ANC government is to opt to spend money that government does not have. We suspect that the main driver is to dispense tenders to comrades. The burning of Parliament is not only emotional but a crime against the people of South Africa. We are calling on all opposition parties to raise their voices and support our call for President Ramaphosa to address the nation virtually from the union buildings. That will be a wise decision and to save millions of rands to the taxpayer”, says Bloem.

Structural integrity

On Wednesday, the Architect of the National Assembly building Jack van der Lecq said the most critical part to rebuild it was to test the structural integrity of the building.

Van der Lecq is the person who designed the new National Assembly building as early as 1984.

He says the building was completed and opened in 1988.  Van der Lecq explained how the Chamber could be rebuilt to its old structure.

“The most critical thing for me is the testing of the structural integrity of the building because over the main Assembly Chamber there are six massive beams spanning over the total widths of that chamber. And if there is any damage or deflection or cracking or whatever structural system, then we have got another problem. Then the of course it has to be redone and that’s a totally different story. Point number one, structural integrity of the building must be tested,” he adds.

However,  the building which was designed by Van der Lecq has been declared unsafe to enter and sealed off following a recent visual assessment commissioned by Public Works and Infrastructure Development Minister Patricia De lille.

De Lille reiterates that the New National Assembly has suffered serious structural damage due to the fire.

The damage includes cracks on the second and third floor.

“In consultation with the Hawks, an internal DPWI professional team has produced a preliminary visual assessment of the damages including the safety aspect of the site due to the recent fires. The professional team’s visual assessment showed that there is deep structural damage to the New   Assembly. The slabs are damage and also some cracks on the second and third floor. The department has activated the procurement of an independent specialist engineering team to conduct further detailed assessments and testing of material strength. And the preliminary visual assessment report and photos have been handed over to the HAWKS and we are not allowed to share it because it is part of the evidence from a crime scene,” emphasised De lille.

Investigations by the Hawks and various law enforcement agencies into the fire are underway.

Law enforcement experts are continuing with sniffer dogs from the K9 unit also part of investigating.

One sniffer dog called Alvin was seen roaming the precinct on Friday searching for potential explosives on the parliamentary precinct.